Is the Northern Zone deer season too long?
A few years ago the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was soliciting input from deer hunters over possible changes to seasons. Of course, the big topic was further antler restrictions, which in the end did not materialize.
Also on the table was a possible change in the length of the regular big-game season in the Northern Zone, also known as the rifle season. This 44-day season begins two Saturdays after Columbus Day and ends on the first Sunday in December. Coupled with two weeks of muzzleloading hunting (just one week in some Wildlife Management Units), and an archery season that begins Sept. 27, and the end result is close to two-and-a-half months of deer hunting.
Like antler restrictions, no changes were made to the Northern Zone season. At first, I thought that some hunters would support at least shortening the rifle season – especially those hunters who also support protecting younger bucks. A shorter season, it seemed, would result in fewer bucks killed and eventually more mature bucks in subsequent seasons.
But Northern Zone hunters, overall, didn’t go for it. Back then, I attended a meeting in which members of the New York State Conservation Council were present, along with a number of DEC biologists and press representatives. The DEC folks seemed to think this was what hunters wanted, but like me, they were surprised to find out otherwise.
Nearly every serious Northern Zone deer hunter at that meeting simply objected to any change in the deer season, as did several others I interacted with in one form or another.
“You know how hard it is to kill an Adirondack buck?” I heard over and over. I also heard a number of hunters say that once you give it up, you’ll never get it back. Overall, it seemed hunters liked things the way they were then, and the way they still are now.
To me it all made sense. Although the Adirondacks are big part of the Northern Zone, they are not all of it. There is plenty of agricultural lands, too, which are very similar to the Southern Zone. But the Adirondacks define the Northern Zone and it is difficult to tie your tag to a mountain buck.
It also takes time, no matter your hunting method. Many hunters use the early season to scout, especially in the early part of the rut. The doe groups they find hanging around food sources in late October will attract bucks when the rut rolls around.
In these early days of deer season in the Northern Zone, numerous hunters are putting their boots on the ground trying to locate doe groups and buck sign like rubs and scrapes and even bedding areas. If you find all of these attributes then you know you have a buck to hunt, and that’s all a backwoods hunter can ask for.
This writer is glad no changes were made to the length of the Northern Zone deer season. If I did have to make a choice it would’ve been to cut some time off the end, at least in years when the late season carries into mid-December. That’s another story for another time.
Until then, deer season is here so get out and enjoy it.