New York Deer Hunters Can Use Rifles in Three Counties

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The governor has signed a new law that allows deer hunters to use rifles in three Southern Tier counties beginning this year, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.

Governor Eliot Spitzer approved the legislation, which allows rifle use for big-game hunting in Chemung, Steuben and Yates counties, Grannis said. It is similar to legislation enacted in 2005 for 10 counties in Central New York and the Southern Tier. However, this measure expires in one year and would have to be renewed in 2008 by state lawmakers.

DEC had urged the governor to sign the bill. The counties wanted the measure as a tool for deer herd management. Also, hunter safety statistics show rifles as safe as shotguns, the commissioner noted.

"The most important tool for deer herd management is hunting," Grannis said. "Many hunters prefer the accuracy of the rifle to hunt deer and bear. Further, the rifle has proven to be as safe an implement as the shotgun, as hunting related shooting accidents in rifle areas are no greater than in shotgun-only areas."

The law will be in effect for the upcoming hunting season. Regular Deer Season in the Southern Zone, including all of Chemung, Steuben, and Yates counties, runs from Nov. 17 to Dec. 9. Regular Bear Season in the Allegany Bear Range, including portions of Chemung and Steuben counties, runs from Nov. 24 to Dec.9; the rifle authorization applies to bear hunting in those portions of Chemung and Steuben.

Hunting accidents generally have been on the decline. The 2006 hunting season saw just 35 shooting incidents, the fourth lowest since records have been kept. During the 1960s, the incident rate was 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters. Since 2000, the incident rate is one-third of that, averaging 6.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters.

During the 2006-07 season, hunters statewide harvested 189,108 deer, about 8,900 more than the year before. Yates County - one of the counties covered by the new law - had the highest rate of harvest, at 10.4 deer per square mile.