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Rulemaking process will implement deer plan by Ron Kolodziej

Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - Updated: 6:55 AM

The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s recently adopted deer management plan indicates the agency’s intended direction for the next five years of deer management and deer hunting. The plan includes a number of strategies that would affect deer hunting seasons and increase hunter opportunity. However, there are a few items that require clarification.

First, the deer plan does not propose any changes to the Southern Zone regular season, which will begin Nov. 17.

Otherwise, for many of the hunting related strategies of the deer plan to be implemented (for example, begin the Southern Zone bow season Oct. 1, establish a youth hunt for deer, allow deer management permits to be used during the Northern Zone bow and muzzleloader seasons and establish mandatory antler restrictions in seven additional wildlife management units in the Catskills), DEC must amend its regulations through the formal rulemaking process.

The process is outlined on the New York State Department of State’s website (www.dos.ny.gov/info/rulediagram) and essentially involves publishing the proposed regulations in the State Register, a 45-day public comment period, DEC review and assessment of the comments and an agency determination on whether the proposed rules require modification or can be adopted.

DEC is in the early internal stages of this process now and hopes to proceed so new regulations may be in place by late spring, well ahead of the 2012 hunting seasons.

AMENDING LAWS

However, be aware that several recommendations of the deer plan require amending laws, not regulations. These issues are described in Appendix 5 of the deer plan and include: establishing a uniform minimum age of 12 years for all hunters, expanded use of crossbows, reducing the setback distance for discharge of vertical bows and crossbows, increased penalties for deer hunting violations and other statutory issues.

Statutory changes (changes to laws) must be enacted by the state Legislature and signed by the governor. DEC does not have authority to change laws.

YOUTH HUNT

Additionally, in the final deer plan the agency is committed to implementing a special youth deer hunt without identifying the specific dates when it might occur. Rather, DEC will continue working with stakeholders to select an appropriate time for the youth hunt.

To that end, DEC has decided to ask those most directly affected by this initiative, namely junior hunters and the adults that would mentor them, their opinions on the timing of a youth deer hunt. DEC conducted a mail survey in which it presented junior hunters with five options for a youth hunt, including: a weekend in early September, a weekend in late September, the first full weekend in October, the three-day Columbus Day Weekend or the first two to three weeks of October including weekends.

THE FINDINGS

The survey resulted in some notable findings:

• 90 percent of respondents indicated they would likely participate in a youth deer hunt;

• season options in October were preferred over options in September; and

• Columbus Day Weekend received the greatest overall preference.

You can check out www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/74971 to see the full results of the survey.

DEC will formally propose the regulation changes sometime in March. The details will be posted on its website at www. dec.ny.gov. Click on ‘Regulations and Enforcement’ and then ‘Proposed Regulations.’

Once the proposed regulation changes are released comments will be accepted.

FISHING REGULATIONS

DEC has also proposed some interesting changes in fishing regulations. Those that apply to the North Country include:

• establish a special walleye regulation of an 18-inch minimum size and three per day possession limit in Lake Pleasant and Sacandaga Lake to aid in restoring walleyes in those waters;

• prohibit fishing from March 16 to the opening of the walleye season in Lake Pleasant outlet to the mouth of Kunjamuk Creek;

• open Lake Kushaqua and Rollins Pond in Franklin County to ice fishing for lake trout;

• open Blue Mountain Lake, Eagle Lake, Forked Lake, Gilman Lake, South Pond and Utowana Lake here in Hamilton County to ice fishing for landlocked salmon and reduce the daily limit for lake trout in those waters from three to two per day;

• delete special ice fishing regulations for Square Pond in Franklin County because this water will no longer be managed for trout;

• open specific waters currently deemed as trout waters to ice fishing in the counties of Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and St. Lawrence; and

• provide for ice fishing in Salmon Pond in Hamilton County.

Comments on these proposed changes can be emailed to fishregs@gw.dec.state.-ny.us. Following the full review of public comments final regulations will take effect Oct. 1.

     

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