Big game season gets underway Saturday

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The Southern Zone deer and bear hunting seasons open this Saturday, Nov. 17 and continue through December 9.

Officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) predict that 2012 should be another good year for deer hunters in New York.

The DEC’s positive outlook is the result of last winter being exceptionally mild winter, combined with a slight increase in Deer Management Permits (doe tags).
DEC statistics indicate that New York hunters took roughly 230,000 deer in each of the last two seasons. The DEC’s wildlife specialists anticipate the total deer harvest will increase slightly in 2012.

A major change this year affecting the southeastern portion of the Catskills this season will be implementation of an Antler Restriction Program. This program, which is designed to reduce the harvest of young bucks, requires that bucks taken in the Antler Restriction Units have a least one antler with three points (or more), that are at least one inch long.

The Antler Restriction (AR) Program applies to the archery, regular and muzzleloading seasons. Hunters aged 12-16 years are exempt from this restriction. The program is in effect in Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4S and 4W. A map of these units is available at dec.ny.gov/outdoor28605html#deer

Pilot program results
The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation conducted a Pilot Antler Restriction Program from 2005-11 in several WMUs.
Some of the findings from the program include:
• The pilot AR program substantially reduced the proportion of yearling (1.5 year old) bucks in the harvest and harvest composition shifted to older bucks.
• The number of 2.5+ year-old bucks in the harvest increased since implementation of ARs. The increase did not fully compensate for the reduction in yearling harvest, and total buck take generally remained 20 percent below pre-AR levels. WMU 3H was the only unit where buck take returned to the level immediately prior to AR.
• A shift in sex ratios of deer observed in the pilot AR units was apparent. A similar shift was observed in neighboring units without ARs.
• ARs had no effect on hunter participation for the majority of hunters. Overall participation by non-local hunters appeared to decline because of ARs.
• The impact of ARs on hunter satisfaction was mixed. Satisfaction with buck hunting was generally higher in the pilot AR units than the surrounding region. Similar increases in buck-hunting satisfaction were observed in the surrounding region as occurred within the pilot area.
The Southern Zone bowhunting season for deer and bear started October 1 and continues through November 16. The late bowhunting season and the muzzleloading season for both deer and bear will run from December 10-18.