Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Deer management solutions

If you're not a solution finder, you are just another chronic complainer. This is the creed we live by at my sales job. Don’t sit there and complain about a situation, but actively push your mind to build solutions but make sure to flesh out ideas, because everything looks good on paper at first. 

New, proposed deer regulations for several units in the state are aimed at curtailing the overpopulation of whitetails in certain areas, and helping boost the numbers in others. For the overpopulation in some WMUs, like my home unit long the Lake Ontario shore, I see first-hand and hear from farmers who directly feel the economic impact of deer. From reports for those who have not read up on the issue, DEC assistant director of fish, wildlife and marine resources Doug Stang has said, “This is about trying to kill more antlerless deer in those areas where we’ve got too many deer.”

 While these ideas would clearly need to be vetted and ultimately agreed upon, they are a start.

 1)    Special doe seasons: Part of the proposed changes include making the first two weeks of October antlerless-only in certain units. While it sounds nice, some old hunters I know balked at the idea since they don’t touch their gear until the end of October. Other hunters don’t like the idea since they value the first few weeks of October as a chance to clip their target bucks on extremely predictable patterns. So what could be a good solution? Add another antlerless-only season on the front and on the back end of the season as a whole. Push the first doe season into the last week of September and the first week of October. This should keep hardcore hit list hunters happy. Then, designate another special antlerless firearms season running for the first two weeks of the new year in January. Right there you get a full month of doe harvest potential.

2)    Baiting and Mineral Use: Everyone has an opinion on baiting and minerals, but one way to tag a few more deer would be to allow for bait and mineral attractant use during these specified seasons. Yes, it's touchy subject and, yes, it would open up an entirely separate conversation. However, when I walked into one of the big box stores a few weeks ago I saw three quarters of a pallet of bait / feed and attractant gone. So much for the no baiting policy in this state, right? While bait hunting isn’t a walk in the park from what has been written and reported from other bait legal states, it could be an effective way to provide hunters more shot opportunities. If the object is to thin the herd in certain areas, more shots will be needed, and baiting could help in this way. Also, a few dollars extra in bait sales and extra meat in the freezer could go a long way for everybody’s economy. 

3)    More Archery-Only Special Hunts: Let's think real quick – what  other areas could be great candidates for special archery-only hunts? Some parks and urban areas are already open to archery-only hunts as they help thin areas deer find as safe zones. It would be worth a look, at the very least, to see where else bowhunters could have a positive impact. Another solution would be to create a program to help hunters looking for available areas to hunt to connect with farmers who have issues but do not have the time and resources available to get out in the field. 

4)    Weekly harvest reports: I believe an open channel of communication between hunters and the state DEC would tremendously help the aforementioned management goals. In order to improve communication, hunter feedback and the general relationship between hunters and the DEC, how about the DEC posts a weekly antlerless report in order to help hunters see where we stand in achieving the goals set? While they would be rough, crude numbers more or less, the written communication, I believe, would go a long way in improving hunter feedback and ultimately open more doors to greater solutions. There is nothing quite like hearing we have not hit our target numbers, if we don’t know what the number goal is, and where it stands on a weekly basis.

While this call for greater antlerless harvest in some areas may sound like the battle cry some hunters have been hoping for I urge everyone, from the state level to the blue collar bowhunter, to act with discernment. We have seen this “war on does” before and have seen it cripple deer herds for years. As written earlier, these ideas are just ideas. But solutions don’t appear out of thin air. I encourage each hunter to voice their opinion since we all have a vested interest in the future of our deer herd.

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