Mixed Northern reviews
Elizabethtown, N.Y. — It will be a while before the Northern Zone’s 2012 deer harvest is tallied.
Until then – and likely even after DEC announces the total take – opinions will vary widely on whether the season was a success.
And in some cases, the opinions are a product of whether that individual hunter filled their tag.
But DEC Region 6 wildlife biologist Steve Heerkens said one indication that it may have been a pretty good Northern Zone deer season is that he’s not hearing a lot of grumbling among hunters.
“I’m getting a sense that it was unremarkable,” Heerkens said last week as the season wound to a close with the final days of the late muzzleloading season in select units coming to a close Dec. 9.
“This year, we at least had some good hunting weather in terms of temperature,” he said. “It wasn’t a great year but a good one – certainly better than the last few years.”
But even Heerkens, an avid hunter himself, saw some conflicting signals in the Northern Zone deer woods this season.
“I didn’t see as many bucks as I thought I’d see,” he said, noting the mild winter of 2011-12 that set the stage for good winter survival, which generally equates to plenty of yearling bucks and does. “I did see a fair number of does. I know some guys missed (shots); I missed.”
Richard Chapman at Chapman’s Sports in Hammond (St. Lawrence County) said hunters “were still seeing some deer they’d like to shoot” as the late muzzleloader season ran through Dec. 9.
“I think it (the deer season) went all right for most hunters,” he said. “But not like it was five or 10 years ago.”
A lack of mast crop (acorns, beechnuts) made for difficult hunting in some of the big-woods areas of the Adirondacks, some hunters theorized.
“It was tough in the mountains,” said Norm St. Pierre of Crown Point Bait and Tackle in Essex County. “I think the guys in the agricultural areas did fine.”
St. Pierre, who butchers deer at his business, said he had “about 55 or 60” deer in the shop heading into the Dec. 3-9 late muzzleloader season in some Northern Zone units. “I usually do 90 to 120, so if I get 15, 20 or 30 more it will be OK. Not a great season, but OK.”
Heerkens said field reports within DEC’s Region 6 (Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and St. Lawrence counties) showed meat processors were generally busy.
And DEC’s most recent harvest reports showed the Southern Zone kill was running about 13 percent above last year. Some of that, however, is the product of an increased number of Deer Management Permits.
DEC doled out about 12 percent more DMPs than last year, a season marked by unseasonably mild weather that frustrated many hunters.
This year, Northern Zone deer hunters at times had at least some snow.
“It wasn’t great quality snow, but the Adirondacks guys had a little snow to play with,” Heerkens said.
Northern Zone hunters killed 26,814 deer, including 15,899 bucks, according to DEC figures.
This season wasn’t without tragedy.
In Warren County, 53-year-old Terry S. LaVergne of Warrensburg died Dec. 1 when he was shot by a member of his hunting party while walking through a brushy area off Fawn Ridge Road in the town of Chester.
Warren County sheriff’s deputies said LaVergne was struck in the torso by a single round fired from 150-200 yards away by a hunter using a scoped .308 rifle.
His hunting companions carried LaVergne, who was struck in the femoral artery by the shot, more than a mile through the woods to meet with North Warren Emergency Squad responders. LaVergne died at Glens Falls Hospital.
No charges had been filed as of last week, but an investigation was continuing.
Warren County Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree said a jacket LaVergne was wearing at the time had blaze orange on its inside, but was not visible at the time of the shooting and he was dressed in full camouflage.
He told the Glens Falls Post-Star “we don’t believe it was an intentional shooting, but we don’t use the term ‘accident.’ It was preventable.”
That same morning, another hunter died of apparent natural causes while hunting in the Pack Forest in Warrensburg.
In Schoharie County in the state’s Southern Zone, one hunter died and another was injured in separate incidents.
A hunter was struck in the lower back when his handgun discharged when he fell while hunting in the town of Esperance. His injuries were not considered life-threatening, sheriff’s deputies said.
An 83-year-old man died when he was stricken while hunting in the town of Gilboa.