Sandy’s wrath stymies hunters

Congers, N.Y. — John Hanchar is an avid bowhunter who regularly treks to the Southern Tier’s Tioga County to hunt.

But for Hanchar, like so many others in southeastern New York and the New York City-Long Island area, the archery season, at least, may be a washout thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

The fierce storm that pummeled the region late last month shredded Long Island, destroyed boats, marinas and docks, and also prompted DEC to close state land to all activities.

“Bow season is probably over for me,” said Hanchar, whose home was heavily damaged by a pair of falling oak trees. “I’m just trying to get the house buttoned up right now. I’m hoping to get up there (Tioga County) for the firearms opener. I should be up there hunting right now.”

In addition to dealing with the family’s personal loss, Hanchar serves as a police officer in the town of Clarkstown in Rockland County, a job that’s obviously keeping him busy these days as the region returns to normalcy.

In Hanchar’s area, the sole impact from the storm was the loss of power to thousands of residents. That wasn’t the case in Long Island, where widespread flooding occurred and the damage was unfathomable.

“Some guys just lost power for a few days and things were back to normal. But others were absolutely wiped out by the tidal surge,” said Craig Wagner of Smith Point Archery in Patchogue (Suffolk County). “Everybody was affected at least in some way.”

Despite the massive destruction, some bowhunters were managing to get back in their treestands – albeit on private land, since DEC and county-managed tracts were closed to all activities to allow staff to assess damage.

“The guys who hunt DEC and county lands are out of luck until further notice,” Wagner said last week. “But guys were still hunting; they’re still bringing in deer. My woods where I hunt were flooded, and it changed the movement of the deer.”

Wagner added the biggest challenge was finding gas.

“That’s the big problem right now. It’s available, but the lines are horrendous and nobody wants to travel right now,” he said.

John Miller of Bob’s Sport and Tackle in Katonah (Westchester County) saw his business come to a screeching halt when the hurricane lashed the region.

“I didn’t have a customer for over a week,” he said. “A few guys are coming in now to pick up leftover Deer Management Permits. But Westchester County was hit hard – a lot of people lost power. And a lot of my customers come up from the city. With the gas shortage that’s not happening. And those who can get gas need it for other things right now.”

Slow business meant Miller was able to slip away from the shop and get some hunting in of his own.

“I’ve been out every day,” he said. “Hopefully things will get better soon and people can think about hunting and fishing again. I think it will improve by the firearms season opener.”

The devastation on Long Island essentially ended the saltwater fishing season for the immediate future.

“No one is thinking about fishing right now,” Wagner said.

That meant the final weeks of the striped bass season were essentially a washout.

In addition, DEC closed all state-owned land in Suffolk and Nassau counties due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, as well as another storm that was poised to sweep into the area last week.

“DEC properties will remain closed to all activities, including hunting, hiking and biking,” DEC Region 1 Director Peter A. Scully said in a news release. “Properties not yet assessed by DEC may pose risks to recreationalists, including fallen and weakened trees, weakened tree limbs, impassible trails and uneven and hazardous trail conditions.”

Pheasant stocking on state lands in the region was also postponed, as was fall trout stockings. Officials said the trout stockings were tentatively scheduled to be completed by Nov. 17.

DEC’s check station in Ridge was to remain unmanned until state lands were re-opened and electricity was restored to the station. Any hunter taking a deer on private or other open lands was to contact DEC at (631) 444-0310 to check their deer and obtain additional deer tags.

In the Adirondacks, the storm never really materialized, its remnants diving west instead into the Midwest. DEC Region 5 officials had issued a notice to hunters, hikers and campers to stay out of the woods and off the water as the storm approached.

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