Deer season is here and I couldn’t be more thrilled about the first-ever youth firearms deer hunt that is taking place this weekend.
The three-day hunt began yesterday morning and runs through tomorrow (Columbus Day). It is specifically for deer and specifically for youths ages 14 and 15. If you haven’t done so already, it is highly advised that anyone participating in this hunt view the youth hunting and regulations pages on the Department of Environmental Conservation’s website: www.dec.ny.gov.
This hunt does have its share of naysayers, especially in the Southern Zone. Those opposed to the hunt point out legitimate safety concerns.
Some are also concerned that pressure from the hunt will make deer tougher to pursue later.
On this latter point I say, “So be it.” You’ll just have to hunt harder, or smarter.
Groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the National Wild Turkey Federation and state agencies across the country have done studies and concluded that youth-hunter recruitment and retention are two of the most important factors ensuring the future of hunting. They’ve also concluded that young hunters fresh from hunter education classes are some of the safest hunters out there.
I personally wish the young hunters and their mentors the best of luck this weekend, and share your stories and photos with us.
We’ve already told you about the Chazy Rod & Gun Club’s heaviest deer contest. We also want to let you know that Ward Lumber in Jay is celebrating the 20th anniversary of their big-buck contest. This is for Northern Zone deer only and there are some great prizes, including a random drawing. Contact their store in Jay for more information at 946-2216.
One contest that will not be taking place this year is the New York Whitetail Classic. Founder Tony McCutcheon has done his best to keep the contest going during tough financial times. He’s going to take at least a year off from the contest while he considers its future.
At one time, this was one of the best overall celebrations of deer hunting in the entire state as it usually wrapped up with an excellent weekend trade show and banquet in the early spring. Tony is a personal friend and believe me, if he finds a way to make this work in the future, it will be back.
Muzzleloading and RegularSeason
Big-game hunting really gets going next Saturday, Oct. 13, when the Northern Zone muzzleloading season opens. As the popularity of the one-shot, front-loading weapon has increased, the state has responded with some pretty liberal hunting regulations and bag limits.
The result is that we now have two opening days across deer country, especially for those who visit deer camps in the Adirondacks.
When the weather is right, I love my muzzleloading hunting. The mid-October woods are just spectacular and the hunting itself is not always easy. Visibility can be an issue with lots of leaf cover still on on the underbrush. Although our group primarily makes deer drives, that too can be tricky. Therefore, I like to sit near food sources or common travel routes during the mornings and evenings and be on my feet the rest of the day. I’ve had some good luck during the muzzleloading season.
On Oct. 20, the regular big-game (rifle) season opens in the Northern Zone. For decades, that opener had been the second-to-last Saturday in October. That looked poised to change for a while as DEC had initially targeted a 44-day rifle season to open the last Saturday of the month as part of their five-year deer management plan.
It became obvious, however, that hunting during the late muzzleloading season in those areas of the Northern Zone where it is open would carry over well into December, possibly pressuring deer in their winter yarding areas.
The solution was to keep the 44-day season and open it on the second Saturday after Columbus Day. That’s where we’ll be at for a few years. I agree with DEC’s decision.
Good luck to all you deer hunters and please be safe.
Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.