Big game season opens Saturday; DEC sees good hunting prospects

By Brian Sweeney
Big game season for white tail deer and bear in New York’s Southern Zone opens on Saturday, Nov. 21 and continues through Sunday, Dec. 13. The outlook for hunters is a good one, with nice weather predicted and a plentiful deer herd.
“Generally, the western and northern Catskills’ deer populations have been increasing since 2003,” commented Larry Bifaro, wildlife biologist with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Stamford office. “I would expect a pretty good season – because populations have grown. Plus, we have offered a few more doe permits this year.”
He added that after a snowy beginning last year, the winter was quite mild, with little snow falling after February. Large amounts of snow late in the season are a major cause of deer starvation, but that was not reported as a problem last year.
Mr. Bifaro said last year’s deer season got off to a poor start because of inclement weather but hunters remained persistent and overall deer harvest numbers were good.
“The hunting gets tougher as the season goes on, but it did balance out last year,” he noted.
The DEC biologist said that several new state hunting regulations also seem to be having a positive impact. He pointed out that the switch to a Saturday opening, introduced several years ago, was implemented provide more opportunities to get youths involved.
In conjunction with this, two years ago, the DEC began allowing 14-year-olds to obtain big game licenses.

Other hunting news
The bow hunting season, which began October 17, continues through November 20. Bow hunting then reopens from December 14-22. Muzzle-loading season is also open during these dates.
A pilot program is in place to reduce harvest of young bucks in four Wildlife Management Units (WMU) located primarily in Ulster and Sullivan counties. The new regulations require that bucks taken in WMUs 3C, 3H, 3J and 3K have at least one antler with three points (or more) which are at least one-inch-long. This restriction applies to the archery, regular and muzzle-loading seasons.
Hunters under 17 years of age are exempt from this restriction. A hunter under 17 may still take any buck with at least one antler that is three inches long or longer.