North poised for another solid season

Ray Brook, N.Y. — Deer management is always a major topic of conversation among the state’s whitetail hunters.

Not nearly as much, however, in the state’s Northern Zone, which includes the vast, rugged Adirondack mountains.

Up there, Mother Nature plays much more of a role than any wildlife biologist sitting at his desk. Even DEC officials admit as much.

“We don’t do a lot of deer management up here,” says DEC Region 5 wildlife biologist Ed Reed. “We maybe play around with muzzleloader seasons a bit, but the weather plays the biggest role, by far.”

Reed and his Region 6 counterpart, Steve Heerkens, say weather – specifically winter weather – has set the stage for what could be a solid Northern Zone deer season this fall.

“The year before last, the winter was very mild, and even last year it was normal – nothing to set the deer herd back at all,” Reed said. “The winters of 2008 and 2009 were pretty nasty, and we’re still recovering from that. We’re not back where we were before, but deer numbers are continuing to improve.”

Heerkens, too, said that while deer hunters in the Adirondacks continue to report low deer numbers, the buck harvest last season was up substantially in Region 6, reflecting excellent fawn survival during the winter of 2011-12.

“And the 2012-13 winter was characterized as normal, meaning some fawn loss in extreme habitats; otherwise it appears winter mortality was negligible.”

With back-to-back winters that didn’t take a major toll on whitetails, all indications are there will be good numbers of yearling, 2.5- and even 3.5-year-old bucks in the big woods of the Northern Zone this fall.

“We saw quite a few nice 2.5-year-old bucks in meat lockers (deer processors) last season,” Reed said. “So there could be decent numbers of 3.5-year-old bucks out there this season.”

Northern Zone deer hunters killed 30,843 deer last season, including 19,437 bucks. That’s about 12-13 percent of the total statewide kill of 242,957 in the 2012-13 season.

The 2012 Northern Zone harvest was up from 26,814 the previous year.

Northern Zone hunters get an early start; the archery season opens Sept. 27 for hunters with leftover tags from the previous season. A popular weeklong muzzleloader season opens Oct. 19 this year and runs through Oct. 25, followed by the firearms season Oct. 26-Dec. 8.

There’s also a late muzzleloader-archery season Dec. 9-15 in selected units.

This season, the muzzleloader and firearms offerings kick off a bit later than normal. That’s a product of a change in season-setting in which the firearms season now opens on the second Saturday after Columbus Day and runs for 44 consecutive days.

“This season, because of the way the calendar falls, the firearms season will run through the first week of December,” Reed said.

Depending on the weather, that could mean improved hunting conditions in the form of snow and rutting activity by bucks. Northern Zone hunters in recent years have had to deal with mild weather throughout much of the regular season, which slowed deer movement.

While the Southern Zone firearms deer season is ushered in with the single biggest hunting day in the state on that opening day, the Northern Zone rifle season typically starts a bit slow and builds to a crescendo as weather cools, tracking snow is available and bucks begin chasing does in earnest. Some of the best hunting up north occurs on either side of Thanksgiving in a typical season. That’s when some of the biggest bucks are taken.

“It all depends on the weather,” Reed said. “If it’s cold early and there’s snow, everyone will be out there.

“Weather conditions often dictate how successful hunters will be in the remote units,” Heerkens said. “Last fall saw more normal conditions with some snow available to hunt on.”

Heading into the season, reports from the field showed “tons of apples; the most I’ve ever seen,” according to Reed. He’s also hearing of a good mast crops in the form of acorns and beechnuts.

In some years, the hard and soft mast offerings are so plentiful it makes it difficult for hunters to pattern deer movement. This could be one of those seasons.

“We’re seeing a good beechnut crop, which will be great for bears during the regular season,” Reed said. “Bears will be more vulnerable in the hardwoods.”

Northern Zone bowhunters killed 2,033 whitetails last season, according to DEC statistics. Muzzleloaders accounted for another 8,190, while 4,100 were tagged with Deer Management Permits and 1,727 removed through the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program, whereby landowners can control nuisance deer.

The regular season accounted for 14,793 whitetails.

Categories: Hunting News, Hunting Top Story, Social Media, Whitetail Deer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *