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Southern Zone deer hunting season opens Saturday

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ALBANY - The 2012 regular deer and bear hunting seasons open at sunrise on Saturday in New York’s Southern Zone, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens said. The big game season closes at sunset on Dec. 9.

“Hunting is the most effective and efficient tool to maintain wildlife populations at levels that are compatible with our communities and natural resources,” said Commissioner Martens. “With an exceptionally mild winter and strong deer and bear populations throughout the state, hunters have good prospects for a successful season.”

The Southern Zone Regular Deer Season is New York’s most popular hunting season, with participation from approximately 85 percent of New York’s 550,000 licensed deer hunters. Harvest during this season accounts for nearly 60 percent of the total statewide deer harvest. The remainder occurs in the Northern Zone, on Long Island, and during special seasons when only archery or muzzleloading firearms may be used.

With an earlier start to the bow season in the Southern Zone and a special Youth Firearms Deer Hunt over Columbus Day Weekend, some deer hunters have already enjoyed a fruitful season. Likewise, black bear hunters have begun the year with harvests during bow season in the Southern Zone comparable to 2011. However, with scarce apples and little acorn or beech nut production this year, bears may den early, particularly if we get snow in November.

Following the regular deer and bear seasons in the Southern Zone, late bowhunting and muzzleloading seasons will open at sunrise on Dec. 10 and close at sunset on Dec. 18. Hunters taking part in these special seasons must possess either bowhunting or muzzleloading privileges.

In the Northern Zone, the regular deer and bear hunting season opened Oct. 20 and will close at sunset on Dec. 2. This zone generally includes the Adirondacks, Tug Hill Plateau, Eastern Lake Ontario Plain and the Champlain and St. Lawrence Valleys. A late archery and muzzleloading season for deer will be open in portions of the Northern Zone from Dec. 3 to Dec. 9.

Hunters should be aware of several important programs and recent changes as they prepare for the 2012 regular hunting season.

■ New CWD Rules Prohibit Importation of Whole Deer Carcasses from Pennsylvania: With the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a captive white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania, DEC has issued an emergency rule to restrict importation of wild deer carcasses and parts from Pennsylvania. This rule is intended to

protect New York’s deer from newly identified potential sources of CWD. See “CWD Regulations for Hunters” at (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8325.html ) for more information.

■ Rifles authorized for Cayuga County: New legislation now allows use of rifles for big game hunting in Cayuga County. See “Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas” at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/35010.html for other areas where rifles can be used.

■ Mandatory Antler Restrictions: Mandatory antler restrictions (bucks must have at least 3 points on one side) are now in effect in WMUs 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W during all seasons for all hunters 17 years and older. Mandatory antler restrictions also remain in effect in WMUs 3C, 3H, 3J, and 3K. For hunters not in the mandatory AR area, consider voluntary protection of young bucks. With such a mild winter this past year, we expect over-winter fawn survival was exceptionally strong and anticipate that hunters may see more yearling (1.5 years old) bucks afield this fall. Through most of New York, hunters can take a buck of any age, but an increasing number of hunters are voluntarily choosing not to take young, small-antlered bucks. We encourage hunters who are interested in seeing and taking older, larger bucks to consider working with local hunting clubs and neighboring landowners to cooperatively and voluntarily reduce their harvest of young bucks. See http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27663.html for more information.

■ Crossbows: Crossbows may be used during the regular deer and bear hunting seasons and during the late muzzleloading seasons. See http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/68802.html on the rules for hunting with a crossbow and to download the required Certificate of Qualification.

■ Junior Hunters: Junior Hunters (14 and 15 years old) can hunt deer and bear with a firearm when appropriately accompanied by an experienced adult. See the Junior Hunter Mentoring webpage at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/46245.html for program requirements and to download the Mentored Youth Hunter Permission Form.

■ Harvest Reporting: Hunters are required to report their harvest of deer and bear within 7 days. Failure to report harvested deer or bear is a violation of NYS Environmental Conservation Law. Hunters may report via our online reporting system at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8316.html or by calling the toll-free automated reporting system at 1-866-GAME-RPT (1-866-426-3778).

■ Black Bear Tooth Collection: Successful bear hunters are asked to submit a tooth of their bear so DEC can age the bear and monitor bear population dynamics. See http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/45598.html for instructions.

■ Venison Donation: Hunters are encouraged to participate in the Venison Donation program (http://www.venisondonation.com). By filling your permits and donating your deer, you help accomplish the needed deer management and you can feed less fortunate families.

Although safety-conscious hunters have significantly reduced the number of firearms-related injuries, studies show that individuals wearing hunter orange clothing are seven times less likely to be injured than hunters who do not wear the bright fluorescent color. Hunters are encouraged to review hunting safety tips (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/9186.html) and pay careful attention to basic firearm safety rules that can prevent hunting related shooting incidents

■ Point your gun in a safe direction.

■ Treat every gun as if it were loaded.

■ Be sure of your target and beyond.

■ Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

■ Remember to wear Hunter Orange.

Hunters interested in getting the most up-to-date information about deer and bear management in New York are invited to join an e-mail list at http://lists.dec.state.ny.us/mailman/listinfo/nybiggame. The latest updates on New York’s fish and wildlife can also be sent directly to those who subscribe to Field Notes ( http://www.dec.ny.gov/about/63801.html), another free online e-mail list provided by the Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources.

For specific descriptions of regulations and open areas, hunters should refer to the 2012-13 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/37136.html). Hunters are urged to review all regulations and safety tips contained in the guide.

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