Elizabethtown, N.Y. — If you hear Northern Zone deer hunters
uttering the phrase, “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,”
they’re not dreaming of a white Christmas.
A white November – or even late October – would suit them just
That didn’t happen last season, when Northern Zone deer hunters
struggled and actually, at times, even sweltered through a
frustratingly mild hunting season.
“It was hot,” DEC Region 5 wildlife biologist Ed Reed recalled
of several days afield.
The warm, virtually snow-free weather across the region was
cited as the biggest factor in a 21-percent dip in the Northern
Zone buck harvest. The antlerless take fell by 8 percent from the
DEC wildlife biologists said the mild weather not only slowed
whitetail movement, it also limited hunter activity as many chose
to stay home and wait for better conditions and tracking snow
which, for the most part, never arrived.
The good news, however, is that the season-that-wasn’t left a
lot of unharvested whitetails roaming the woods. And those deer
were assisted by a relatively mild winter that offered a great
chance for survival against the elements.
So there should be plenty of deer out there this season, and the
weather has to be better this time around, right?
“I don’t know how it could be worse,” Reed said. “And I think
hunters should have more two-and-a-half and
three-and-a-half-year-old bucks, those older age classes of deer,
available since they didn’t get harvested last year because of the
Weather – particularly tracking snow – is the primary driver of
the deer harvest in the Northern Zone, known for its sparse deer
numbers and a lack of hunting pressure when compared to the
Southern Zone. Although some Southern Zone-type deer hunting is
available up north, the Northern Zone is characterized more by the
big woods hunting offered in the Adirondacks.
Good weather in the form of tracking snow tips the odds a bit
more in favor of the hunters. It also generates a little more
enthusiasm among the whitetail pursuers, and that increased level
of hunting intensity also helps boost the harvest.
“There should be a few more deer in the woods this season; not
only did more bucks survive the hunting season, they survived
winter, too,” DEC Region 6 wildlife biologist Jim Farquhar said.
“And weather-wise, we seem to be entering more of a fall mode now,
which is good.”
Steve Heerkens, another Region 6 wildlife biologist who covers
the southern portion of the Adirondacks, says the stage is set for
a solid season, based on the low harvest last season and a
relatively mild winter.
“If we can get the weather – cooler temperatures with a little
dampness and a little snow, it should be a decent season,” he said.
“Snow is pretty important to Northern Zone hunters, and last year
we just didn’t get any to speak of.”
While last year’s winter was mild and snowfall minimal, Heerkens
says the 2008 winter was marked by early snowfall that made it
difficult for deer in some areas of the Northern Zone. “A couple
winters previous (to last winter) were a little on the heavy side,”
Farquhar said that in some areas of the North Country, those
rough winters have a sharp impact on deer numbers.
“In areas of lower deer density, it can take two or three years
for the numbers to climb back,” he said. “In those areas, the
numbers of two-and-a-half-year-old deer might be a little
The 2009 Northern Zone deer harvest was 28,464, including 16,279
bucks. That figure was about 12.6 percent of the statewide tally of
222,798 whitetails. In 2008, 33,938 deer – including 20,726 bucks –
were killed by Northern Zone hunters.
The breakdown for 2009 showed 11,719 deer were harvested during
the firearms season; 8,309 by muzzleloader hunters; 4,553 through
Deer Management Permits for antlerless deer; 2,075 during the
archery season and 1,808 through the Deer Management Assistance
Program in which deer are killed to reduce crop or other
The Northern Zone deer season kicked off Sept. 27 with the
archery offering, which runs through Oct. 22. A popular one-week
muzzleloader season runs from Oct. 16-22; deer of either sex may be
taken in most units, while WMU 6N is a bucks-only unit. A late
muzzleloader season runs from Dec. 6-12 in some units, while the
regular firearms season starts Oct. 23 and runs through Dec. 5.