My congratulations to all of you who were able to take a buck in either the Northern or Southern zone this season. For my part, I cut my hunting season a bit short this year in order to take my first-ever winter vacation, heading south into warmer climes. It just seemed like a good time to go snorkeling and scuba diving in some tropical venue rather than sitting and waiting for ice to form on local lakes.
While we’re on the subject of big game hunting, results are mixed so far on hunter success. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation feels one of the reasons for the so-so season is the warmer than normal temperatures we’ve experienced. We had our share of colder weather, and even some snow, but in general our November temperatures were above normal.
This is not the first time that’s occurred, but when it does it seems to wreak havoc with the rut in many places. There are areas where the rut was predictable but in other areas it wasn’t that easy, and seemed sporadic at times. Still, regardless of the temperature, the rut has to happen, it just happens unpredictably when conditions aren’t favorable.
Surprisingly, we’ve discovered that the rut in the section of West Texas we normally hunt every year occurs only a week or two later than it does here. That just proves you can’t set an accurate calendar date on the rut wherever you hunt because there are so many variables involved. You can approximate the date but not necessarily pinpoint it. Some whitetail hunting mavens insist you can, but there’s still a lot of guesswork involved.
DEC wildlife biologists say deer movement slows when the weather is too warm and deer hunting also tends to decline. Conversely, cold weather and tracking snow tends to increase deer movement and makes the critters more accessible to hunters, thereby boosting hunting pressure.
In general, the deer herd is down in the Northern Zone and if hunting pressure is also down, we may see a season that results in poorer than expected numbers. Prior to the season DEC predicted that the northern zone take would be about the same as it was last year, around 16,100, but that may not be the case.
You’re no doubt already aware that during October and November DEC police conducted a blanket deer taking enforcement detail in a number of counties, targeting deer jacking and other illegal activities. They put in long hours conducting a variety of operations and it seems very few counties in eastern New York state went without arrests for some sort of nefarious activity.
Here in Hamilton County, several individuals were arrested for charges ranging from feeding whitetail deer and shooting over bait to ATV infractions and putting out salt licks, failure to carry a hunting license and carcass tags while hunting, illegally discharging sewage, feeding bears and shooting them over bait and related offenses.
Some of the miscreants were not Hamilton County residents, but their offenses occurred in this county and all face appearances in various town courts, where they could receive fines and/or jail time.
In neighboring Warren County, State Police and an ECO arrested a Wevertown man for multiple charges, including taking deer with the aid of an artificial light, discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, discharging a firearm across a public highway and taking a doe during the closed season.
These are all misdemeanors. The alleged perpetrator was issued several summonses to appear in Town of Johnsburg Justice Court, where he faces up to $6,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.