Whitetail deer opener

By on October 8, 2018
Whitetail bucks like these are not common in New York State but you never know. One thing for sure you’ll never shoot one from your couch. So go get after them, the season is on! Provided photo

Whitetail bucks like these are not common in New York State but you never know. One thing for sure you’ll never shoot one from your couch. So go get after them, the season is on! Provided photo

It is hard to beat the beautiful early October days here in Western New York.  I doubt there is any place in the country that has nicer weather at this time of year than we do. As long as we don’t think about what is coming after this, we’re cool. The changing seasons are great until it changes to that one season I will not mention. No sense in ruining everybody’s fall. Let’s just block it out … you know … like we have to do with our thoughts about what our contemptable politicians have been up to lately.

If you are a bow hunter, this month is even more glorious as October 1 was the opener of archery deer season in our area. We in Western New York are in what the DEC refers to as the Southern Zone of the state.

The white-tailed deer is New York’s most popular game animal. Each year, more than 500,000 deer hunters contribute nearly $690 million to New York State’s economy through hunting related expenses, license purchases and federal excise taxes hunters generate over $35 million to support the management activities of NYSDEC. Hunters take some 220,000 deer annually, filling freezers with roughly 10.8 million pounds of high quality local venison, due largely to efforts of more than 3,000.

Aside from the recreational and economic benefit deer afford hunters in the state, whitetail deer can do a great deal of damage to the habitat if their numbers aren’t controlled. Abundant deer populations can negatively affect farmers, tree growers and homeowners and are a frequent hazard for motorists. So, the moral of the story is that the whitetail population in New York and most states for that matter must be controlled by hunters. The DEC does its best to manage the deer herd to maximize the benefits of this important resource while being mindful of the human and ecological concerns associated with abundant deer populations.

New York State did not always have this great deer population. I remember my grandfather telling me back when he was a young hunter in the 1920’s that if you even saw a single deer while out hunting you would tell everybody you knew about it.

Rampant deforestation and uncontrolled hunting wiped out over 95% of the country’s deer in the 19th century. However, New York State’s deer management in the first half of the 20th century was aimed at increasing deer numbers. New York was highly successful in this effort, as were other states in the northeast. By mid-century, wildlife managers across the country were recognizing that deer populations in many areas, including parts of New York, were outstripping their natural food supply.

However, public awareness of the issues surrounding high-density populations has remained low. For the past twenty-five years, target population levels in New York have been set primarily through a public input process. Changes in those target levels have not adequately reflected deer impact on habitat or, in some cases, kept pace with population growth.

Now we here in New York enjoy a long deer season that started on October 1 in our zone and runs until December 15. It is a great time to be a deer hunter in New York State. For those just getting started here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Your scent and the wind direction are still the most important thing to remember when hunting whitetails. Scent-free clothing and cover-up scents are all well and good, but you must do your best to keep the wind in your face. You cannot fool a whitetail’s nose.

2) Do your best to pattern the deer you are after. Don’t just put up a tree stand on what looks like a deer trail and expect something to happen. Know the deer you are hunting, where their bedding area is, and where they are feeding. Early in the season you need to hunt food sources. The rut hasn’t started yet so don’t use grunt calls, rattle or doe estrus scents in October.

3) Hunt the food sources and do that just in the evening. You are wasting your time otherwise and, worse yet, you can booger up your area with noise and scent which will move the deer that are living there out to other more secure ground. Also, when hunting food early, hunt the fringes of your area; don’t get deep into their bedding area this early in the year. Save those stands for mid-November when the rut is on and the big boys are at their most vulnerable.

4) Find a route into your stand that doesn’t bump deer even if you have to go way out of your way not to be seen or, worse yet, scented. Always try to come in downwind.

5) From Halloween on, try to stay in your stand as long as possible. The rut will be on and a big buck in love could make a mistake at any time of day. During the rut it is a percentage game. The longer you stay in the stand, the better your odds are to score. Moon phases can trigger deer movement, but the science there could fill a column on its own. Remember to be patient and don’t hunt a stand on a bad wind. It could move the deer out of the area for the remainder of the season.

6) And lastly practice, practice, practice with your bow or gun so that when the game is on the line you are able to do everything without thinking and safely hit that kill zone.

For all New York’s deer hunting regulations go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28182.html  or grab the DEC’s booklet covering all the hunting regulations. They are free wherever hunting licenses are sold. Everything you need to know is right there.

Now get outdoors and enjoy this fantastic time of year whether it be with a bow or rod and reel because before too long … bam! the S word will be messing with our outdoor fun. Skiers … we don’t want to hear it.

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