Lake-effect snow stymies hunters

Buffalo, N.Y. — An epic lake-effect snowfall during the first week of the Southern Zone firearms deer season brought hunting to a halt in some areas of western New York.
Hunters and other residents of the area within the swath of up to 90 inches – generally south and east of Buffalo – turned their attention to survival as they worked to dig out from the massive weather event.
Deer hunting, even if it were possible in the hardest hit areas, was put on the back burner.
Ron Kozak of Lancaster, where over six feet of snow was recorded, said hunting wasn’t even a consideration, even though the area he hunts didn’t get nearly that much snow. 
“I lost a whole weekend of hunting because I was worried about things at home, like flooding, a roof collapse and a sump pump that wasn’t working,” Kozak said. “Deer hunting wasn’t a priority; family was number one. And even though my hunting spots didn’t have the snow, I couldn’t have gotten out; a lot of roads weren’t plowed until Saturday (Nov. 29).”
DEC officials said that while many hunters were snowed out of their hunting areas, there was never any strong consideration to extending the season in those spots.
DEC Region 9 wildlife manager Emilio Rende said officials were hopeful, following a major warming trend shortly after the heavy snows, that hunters would be able to take advantage of the popular Thanksgiving holiday hunting period Nov. 26-30.
“We expect many hunters will be afield during this period and the deer take could soon approach the ‘normal level,’” Rende said in an email ahead of the holiday.
Too, there was concern among wildlife biologists that the storm may lead to some whitetail mortality, which “may have an overall negative effect on deer populations,” Rende said.
“Additionally, unusually deep snows are likely to persist for the next several weeks in the areas hit hardest by the storm, and this could easily cause deer to ‘yard up,’ making them very vulnerable to overharvest by hunters,” he added.
Snowfall totals peaked in the town of East Aurora, which received 90.5 inches according to the National Weather Service. Hamburg, just south of Buffalo, was dumped on as well, with 80.2 inches. Colden received 56.3 inches, West Seneca 55.6, Buffalo 49.3, Boston (N.Y.) 48.7 and Elma 36.9.
Batavia, further to the west in Genesee County, didn’t escape the narrow band of lake-effect snows. It received 41.5 inches.
DEC officials predicted many hunters will take to the field during the late muzzleloader and archery deer season Dec. 8-16. Harvests during that season, in which hunters can take either a buck or antlerless deer, are expected to boost the region’s overall deer take close to typical tallies. “We have every reason to believe the total number of deer taken in 2014 will be fairly close to what we expected before the storm,” Rende said. “For these reasons, DEC is not planning to extend the firearms deer season.”

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