NY: Deer plan sparking reactions

Mixed reviews on youth hunt plan

Albany – New York deer hunters have a wide variety of opinions on
how to best manage the state’s whitetails and how and when to offer
hunting opportunities.

So it’s perhaps no surprise that DEC’s proposed 5-year deer
management plan, a document that offers several changes in hunting
season structure, almost immediately attracted reactions that
covered both ends of the spectrum.

From solid support to vehement opposition, sportsmen and women and
various organizations are weighing in on the plan that will guide
management of the state’s most popular big game animal, beginning
in 2012.

Early indications are the placement of the proposed youth deer
hunt, a 3-day offering during the Columbus Day weekend, may be
gathering the most reaction.

Supporters say the youth hunt is an ideal way to grow the sport and
recruit hunters for the future. Detractors contend the youth
firearms season will drive whitetails into hiding right in the
middle of the state’s archery deer season.

Ray Gawlas of Scotia (Schenectady County), likes the idea of
youngsters ages 12-15 having an opportunity to hunt with a mentor
before the regular gun season.

“This was long overdue,” he said. “New York state has been very
negligent in providing opportunities to recruit younger hunters,
particularly when there is an overabundance of deer in portions of
the state.”

And the Federation of Dutchess County Fish and Game Clubs, which
gave sweeping support to the DEC plan, called the youth hunt “an
excellent move toward the recruitment of young hunters.”

Others aren’t so receptive to placing the youth hunt in the archery
season (the proposal also calls for an Oct. 1 opener at the
Southern Zone archery deer season, compared to the current
mid-October kickoff).

Doug Handy of Schoharie, in a letter to New York Outdoor News,
voiced safety concerns he feels will be created by the youth
hunt.

“I am all for a youth hunt with firearms, but not during bow
season,” Handy wrote. “What happens when a youth season is started
for bowhunting? Are they going to put it in gun season? It makes
about as much sense.”

And Michael Emerson of Ontario, N.Y., says the Oct. 1 Southern Zone
archery opener “makes absolutely no sense” if it’s followed by the
youth firearms hunt.

Chuck Parker of Mexico, N.Y., said the youth hunt is a great idea
but a special youth weekend is unnecessary and would cut into field
time for small-game and waterfowl hunters because landowners
commonly deny them access during the deer season.

Parker, first vice president of the New York State Conservation
Council, also opposes the DEC’s proposal to open Southern Zone
archery deer season on Oct. 1.

“Generally, bowhunters already enjoy a high-quality hunting time to
be in the woods,” he said. “Giving them additional time will only
lessen the opportunity of success for those who hunt during the
regular gun season.”

DEC chief wildlife biologist Gordon Batcheller said the department
“is getting a lot of comments” and a variety of opinions on the
proposal, notably on the youth hunt and antler restrictions, which
are set to be expanded into seven additional wildlife management
units.

“We’re certainly getting a lot of comments showing strong support
for the youth hunt and antler restrictions – and comments from some
who don’t support those proposals. We’re hearing from folks who
have considerable differences regarding the timing of the proposed
youth hunt,” Batcheller said.

One group strongly opposed to inserting the three-day firearms
youth deer hunt into the archery season is New York Bowhunters.
That organization has consistently opposed the use of any other
implement within the archery season.

New York Bowhunters, on its website, issued a “Critical Red Alert”
citing several concerns with the DEC proposal – including a
contention that it would create a “one buck” rule that would limit
hunters to harvesting one buck.

Batcheller said that’s not the case and “I really don’t know where
the concern stems.”

An advertisement in New York Outdoor News – in the July 1 edition
and on Page 17 of this issue – also raised numerous questions on
the plan and parallels the comments of New York Bowhunters. The ad
was paid for by former New York Bowhunters President Gary Socola
and several others. Numerous sportsmen contacted New York Outdoor
News challenging the allegations within the ad, which has been
altered slightly in this issue at the request of the group placing
the ad.

Batcheller said the lively debate shows the importance of deer
management in the state.

“There’s a good dialogue going on and I think what this shows is
the white-tailed deer resource is a tremendous and valuable asset
and it’s something people are very passionate about,” he said. “The
comments demonstrate that people care.”

Public comments will be taken by the DEC through July 28.

(Editor’s note: The Associated Press contributed to this
story.)

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