Hook, Line and Sinker: November 24, 2012

This Saturday is the opening day of the regular big game season here in the Catskills. It’s a day long anticipated by many who love to hunt, and venture out into the woods on a cold crisp morning, dressed warmly with a thermos of coffee in the backpack, and the prospect of a deer to provide the family with a freezer full of delicious and healthy meat for the long winter.

My earliest memories of big game season are colorful ones: of my father taking his red and black woolen hunting jacket out of the chest with its pungent smell of cedar; getting his thermos, flashlight, hunting knife and other things ready the night before. And how proud I would be when he’d return home with a deer, and the story of how he shot the deer that was always part of the hunt....and the satisfaction that we’d have good meat in the freezer for the winter; meat that was “natural” and healthy, decades before the word “organic” became part of mainstream vocabulary. Dad always hunted for the table – he wasn’t a trophy hunter - and I remember him telling me “the day we stop wanting to eat venison is the day I stop hunting.”

Take careful aim
He told me how important it was to take just one shot – and to make sure it was a good shot – so as not to take a chance on wounding an animal rather than having a clean kill. I always remembered his words, and through the years have passed up the chance to shoot at a nice deer because I didn’t feel it was a “one shot” opportunity. I also remember him saying that once he did take that shot, and the deer goes down, he would wait a bit, long enough to light a cigarette and have a smoke, before walking over to it – and in all likelihood, after lying down the deer would have bled and died.
Never having been a smoker, (my Dad later contracted lung cancer) I estimated that wait to be about five minutes – and to this day, remember his words. It was a few years after he died that I actually began to hunt. I was about 29 or 30 years of age, and wished I’d had the opportunity to show him my first deer and share my hunting stories.

Deer hunting has long been a Catskills tradition – passed down from father to son, parent to child. When I was a youngster, many of our local schools celebrated “Deer Day” and had no school on that third Monday in November, as deer hunting was an important and part of country life for the teachers, parents and older children. Those days are gone – bit in recent years, an effort has been made to encourage youngsters to hunt – even changing the traditional opening day from the third Monday of November to the third Saturday.

Check regulations
In the Southern Zone, the big game season begins on November 17 and is open until December 9, with bow-hunting and muzzle-loading season reopening from December 10-18.

All hunters should be sure to check the hunting regulations syllabus to determine whether they are in a special antler point restriction area; for 2012 and 2013 the three-point antler restriction is in effect in the following Wildlife Management Units: All of 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S and 4W. Bucks must have one antler with three or more points that are at least one-inch long. Please note that the same WMUs have the same antler point restrictions during the muzzle-loading season.
The DEC asks that you remember to report your harvest by calling 866 426-3778, or visiting www.dec.ny.gov. Remember to dress warmly, take only a good shot and have a safe hunting season.