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Preliminary bear takes are a bit surprising by Ron Kolodziej

Wednesday, January 04, 2012 - Updated: 7:14 AM

The Department of Environmental Conservation has issued preliminary harvest estimates for the 2011 big game hunting seasons. For deer, the agency says the harvest reports started out slowly compared to the 2010 season, particularly in the Southern Zone, where there was 20 percent less harvest in the opening week of the season. However, that picked up considerably during Thanksgiving week, bringing the total take closer to the previous year.

The preliminary harvest estimates for bear are a bit of a turnaround, with figures low in the Northern Zone but at near record levels in the Southern Zone. Several new areas were opened in eastern New York state this year for the first time, generally between Westchester and Washington counties.

Hunters in those new areas recorded a total take of about 40 bruins, but even without those animals the preliminary figures show the take in the southeastern zone might become one of the highest ever recorded. In central and western New York the harvest also apparently topped the record take recorded in 2008.

The final figures will be compiled and published sometime late this month or in early February and it’ll be interesting to see if those patterns continued throughout the rest of the seasons. In short, it appears the Northern Zone deer and bear take will be down a bit while takes in other zones, for both deer and bear, will be at or near record levels.

MOOSE HUNTING?

Some time ago I suggested in this column that a good way to provide some much needed cash for the Conservation Fund would be to have a limited moose hunt here in New York state, if DEC decides moose population levels ever need trimming. I suggested perhaps a limited number of permits could be doled out in much the same fashion as they are in Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine or perhaps go to the highest bidders in an auction of some sort.

Now it appears the NYS Conservation Council agrees and is lobbying state legislators for such a hunt. The council envisions a lottery similar to the ones conducted in the above states. Wildlife Management Unit 5C in Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties has been tentatively identified as offering the most potential for such a hunt.

CULLING THE HERD

DEC feels some culling of the moose herd in that area would help reduce clustering of the critters in certain areas and mitigate forest damage. The agency pegs the current moose population in the state at between 750 and 800 animals, and thinning the herd would not harm the overall population.

The NYSCC is confident such a hunt can be established and that there is sufficient legislative support. If legislation is submitted and approved, I doubt it would be much before 2013, or more likely 2014, before the necessary rules, regs and mechanics of the hunt can be drawn up and implemented.

Despite my admitted lack of success in similar ones, I would most certainly enter any moose lottery held here in New York state.

HUNTER FATALITIES

According to preliminary figures, at least five hunters died during our recent big game seasons, including several resulting from falls from tree stands. As of last month, there were only two shooting-related deaths, though zero deaths would have been desirable. Tree stand related deaths are generally not included in those tallies, nor are other injuries or deaths that occurred when the victims weren’t actually hunting.

As of early December, there were about 20 personal injury accidents among hunters, including several in which hunters succumbed to natural causes such as hypothermia, heart attacks and drownings, including one that has been adjudged a suicide.

In 2009, hunters in New York state posted their safest record to date, with only 26 hunting-related accidents involving firearms. Despite that number, hunting remains one of the safest of outdoor activities involving the use of a weapon.

SPORTSMAN’S SALE

Saturday, Jan. 21, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. there will be a Sportsman’s Swap Shop at the Wells Community Center on Route 30 in Wells. Sponsored by Wells Fish & Game Club, there’s a modest $2 entry fee for adults, though youngsters can attend free. Refreshments, snacks and baked goods will be available and there will also be raffle tickets and similar drawings held.

Most of you have attended one of these gatherings in the past so you know there are some real bargains to be had on new and used sporting goods and related outdoor gear. For additional information call Nancy Lewis at (518) 924-2110.

     

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