With sporting licenses scheduled to go on sale Aug. 13, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation went right down to the wire in announcing anticipated and updated changes to deer-hunting regulations throughout the state, including up here in the northern zone.
Initially, DEC’s five-year deer management plan called for a 44-day season to open on the fourth Saturday in October. That has been changed, and the season will open on the second Saturday after Columbus Day. Thus, it will run from Oct. 20 through Dec. 2 this year, similar to years past.
DEC made this change regarding concerns many northern-zone hunters (myself included) had about the impacts of late muzzleloading season hunting that could extend into mid-December. Few of us want to see what happened in Benson (southern Hamilton County) a few years ago, when the deer yarded up early and were slaughtered by muzzleloader hunters coming in from all over. It really was fish in a barrel. In response, DEC made slight WMU boundary adjustments so that area would not be open for the late muzzleloading season.
As per the new regulations, the regular (rifle) season dates will be as follows in subsequent years: 2013, Oct. 26 to Dec. 8; 2014, Oct. 25 to Dec. 7; 2015, Oct. 24 to Dec. 6; and 2016, Oct. 22 to Dec. 4. WMUs in the Adirondack foothills normally have that week of muzzleloading hunting following the closing of the regular season. Add seven days to these closing dates to get the closing dates for late muzzleloading seasons.
One thing a 44-day regular season will guarantee is that hunting takes place for seven weekends. Some years, depending on the how the calendar fell, it had been eight weekends. The last time this was the case was in 2008.
Another proposal in the initial plan that has been altered is related to the hunting of antlerless deer. DEC had wanted to issue deer management (doe) permits for northern-zone archery and muzzleloading hunters. That is on hold and the either/or tag system will remain. What will change is that in WMUs where doe permits are issued, they will be able to be used in all seasons. Formerly they were to be used in rifle seasons only, but now can also be used during archery and muzzleloading seasons. These WMUs are all in Region 6 in the northern and western parts of the northern zone.