Doe-only option sidelines some bowhunters

Newark, N.Y. —  Many bowhunters threatened to sit out the Oct. 1-5 portion of the season where they were limited to taking only antlerless deer in some units.

Whether they actually did stay home remains to be seen, since there’s no solid numbers – based on early harvest statistics – at this point that would indicate such a strike by bowhunters in those affected units.

There is, however, at least some anecdotal evidence that some bowhunters followed through on that threat.

“A lot of guys were just sitting out those first 15 days, or if they had the option they were going to other units and hunting where they could take a buck if the opportunity presented itself,” said Kenny Johnson, hunting/fishing assistant manager at “Herb” Philipson’s in Newark (Wayne County). “Some guys had camps outside the doe-only areas so they hunted there until the 15th.”

Johnson said he noticed an impact on an area farm he hunts during the archery season: a fellow bowhunter who makes the trip to the farm every year “didn’t show up this year.”

And he also heard from some frustrated bowhunters who did hunt in the units impact by the DEC’s antlerless-only restriction from Oct. 1-15.

“I talked to three or four guys who saw a buck and had to pass on it, so they were a bit frustrated,” he said.

DEC moved swiftly this summer in setting the antlerless-only regulation in several units where deer numbers were deemed to be spiraling out of control. The move came after earlier indications it would be put on hold until the 2016 season. Most of the units are located in the Lake Plains region; others are in southeastern New York and on Long Island.

WMUs 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A, and 9F saw the antlerless-only regulation for the Oct. 1-15 portion of the archery season. That same will also apply during the December archery and muzzleloader season in those units which have a late archery/muzzleloader offering.

Youth hunters were exempted from the restriction during the three-day Columbus Day weekend youth deer hunt.

The antlerless-only restriction, as well as the rapid-fire manner in which it was introduced for this season, didn’t sit well with the bowhunting community. There was solid opposition to the plan during a public comment period, and many bowhunters indicated more opposition would have been shown had they been aware it was going to be implemented this year.

Bowhunters continued to sound off on the regulation on the popular message board.

• “Last year we shot a lot of does between Oct. 1-15 and still had a chance at a nice buck – which happened on Oct. 9,” one bowhunter wrote. “Now, a lot of guys won’t bother hunting the first two weeks and are now two weeks behind on their hunt for the buck they had been scouting and figure they don’t have time to be shooting doe with the reduced archery time in the woods.”

• “In those first two weeks in the doe-only zones, bowhunters will not directly reduce the deer population,” said another. “Few, if any that I know, have interest in killing does anyhow. For that reason they will spend those two weeks in other zones, where killing bucks is legal, taking their human scent with them to those areas. There, they may kill their bucks and be satisfied.”

• “If opening day of gun was doe-only more does would be taken than this entire nonsense plan. This is just so they (DEC) can say ‘OK, you had your chance, now we have to try early muzzleloader,’” another hunter wrote.

• “I think the real problem is that they fail to see the importance of keeping hunters happy while still doing conservation a good service. Keeping the hunter population up has got to be in the equation…it makes a good management plan possible, especially when population control is the goal,” wrote one bowhunter who predicted the doe-only offering wouldn’t yield the kind of harvest DEC is hoping for in the affected units.

Bowhunters remain concerned that if the doe-only offering doesn’t generate the harvest DEC is looking for, the state will implement the next step in their deer management plan – an early muzzleloader season within the archery season in select WMUs.

“Over the next couple years, DEC will continue to monitor harvests and population indices and will modify rules for antlerless harvest as needed,” DEC officials said in a news release ahead of the archery season.

That prompted some bowhunters to urge their fellow archers to step up to the plate this fall and fill DMP tags in those units to help DEC trim deer numbers.

Other hunters contend the antlerless-only restriction is designed to fail and will pave the way for the early muzzleloader season that claim has been DEC’s goal since the fall of 2004, when such a plan was considered but ultimately scrapped.

DEC’s deer managers said previously they have not ruled out expanding the antlerless-only regulation to other units if needed, and also said the regulation could be revisited and perhaps dropped at some point.

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

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