NY: 2011’s top news story: deer plan

Elizabethtown, N.Y. – It's perhaps not surprising that New York Outdoor News' top news story of 2011 has yet to see its final chapter.

In the ever-changing world of white-tailed deer management, there may, in fact, never truly be a final chapter.

But DEC's unveiling this year of a five-year deer management plan generated plenty of reaction and, in fact, led to some modification of the original draft.

Still, the proposal remains just that, although certain elements are almost certain to be put in place as early as the 2012 season.

An Oct. 1 opener to the Southern Zone archery deer season.

Antler restriction regulations in several additional wildlife management units in southeastern New York.

And a youth deer hunt, set to take place in some form, although DEC backed off, at least for now, a three-day offering over the Columbus Day weekend.

The 57-page document will govern management of the state's marquee big game animal over the next five years. It also gives the department some latitude in addressing units with high deer numbers through avenues such as a special antlerless-only muzzleloader season.

And because the proposal involves the state's single biggest block of hunters – those who pursue whitetails – it was a natural choice as the top news story of 2011.

But it wasn't by a landslide margin.

There were other major newsmakers in 2011, stories that reverberated through the hunting, fishing and trapping community – some of which will do so for years to come.

Take our No. 2 story of the year – the repeal of the state's $10 saltwater fishing license. The stunning legislative turnaround will mean less revenue for the state's Conservation Fund, and its repeal also drove a wedge between the saltwater angler crowd and the fee-paying freshwater anglers of the state.

Our No. 3 story of 2011 is also one with numerous chapters yet to be written. The state's ongoing development of regulations governing hydrofracking – horizontal drilling for natural gas – has led to charges by advocates that DEC is moving much too slowly in "passing gas" and generating the economic activity associated with drilling. Opponents, however, contend the state is moving too quickly. Could 2012 be the year when hydrofracking comes to New York? Stay tuned.

Other top stories for 2011 include:

• New York's legislative action that further loosened regulations for young hunters in the state. This time, it was the passage of legislation lowering the state's minimum age for bowhunters from 14 to 12 – a huge step in a state where advances in youth hunting regulations have, until recent years, been hard to come by.

• the arrival of crossbows in New York state through legislation that allowed limited use of the implements during the state's firearms and late muzzleloader deer season. DEC was expected to track the number of deer harvests by crossbow hunters this season, but given the restrictions on their use it wasn't expected to be significant.

• the confirmed arrival in New York of a mountain lion which traveled from the Midwest and was spotted on a trail camera outside Albany before ultimately being killed on a Connecticut highway. New Yorkers who have long claimed the big cats existence in the state quickly offered up I-told-you-sos on the heel of the confirmed sighting.

• a tragic year afield for the state's hunters, with at least four shooting-related fatalities and several others in falls from treestands.

• expanded bear hunting opportunities in New York state this season, with the addition of numerous wildlife management units east of the Hudson River opened to bruin hunting. In addition, DEC rolled back the season opening in the Southeast and Central-Western regions to coincide with the opening of the Southern Zone firearms deer season. It all led to record bear harvests in those two regions.

• the ongoing, laborious labor contract talks between the state and its environmental conservation officers, forest rangers and state park police. Officers, working without a contract since 2005, rejected a multi-year proposal and are now continuing talks with new union representation.

• the appointment by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of a new DEC Commissioner, Joe Martens, who succeeded Pete Grannis in that position. Martens, ex-president of the Open Space Institute and a former deputy energy secretary under Gov. Mario Cuomo, was immediately thrust into the state's hydrofracking regulations debate.

Categories: Hunting News, Hunting Top Story, News Archive, Whitetail Deer

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