Southern Zone Deer Hunting Underway

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty announced that the 2003 regular deer hunting season in New York State's Southern Zone opened at sunrise on Monday, November 17, 2003, and closes at sunset on Tuesday, December 9, 2003.

"Deer hunting is a longstanding tradition and an important part of New York's outdoor heritage. The prospects for hunting success this year are once again excellent and Southern Zone big game hunters should look forward to an enjoyable season," Commissioner Crotty said. "During the 2002 season, hunters harvested over 308,000 deer in New York. Even with last years's harsh winter, there is an estimated population of more than one million white-tailed deer in New York. I wish all hunters a safe and enjoyable time afield."

Hunters are reminded that bear hunting opens November 22, 2003, in the Catskill Mountains, and on November 24, 2003, in the Allegany region in Western New York. Specific descriptions of areas that are open for bear hunting and other seasonal regulations are listed in the 2003-04 DEC Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide. The guide is published annually and is available free from DEC regional wildlife offices, all license issuing agents and on the DEC website at Hunters are urged to review all regulations and safety tips contained in the guide.

Immediately following the regular deer season, a five-day late archery season opens December 10, 2003, and closes at sunset on December 14, 2003. A seven-day late muzzleloading season in the Southern Zone also begins December 10, 2003 and closes on December 16, 2003. Hunters taking part in the late archery or muzzleloading seasons for deer and bear must possess either bowhunting or muzzleloading privileges. Late season hunters may use their special bowhunting and muzzleloading tags, and they may also take a deer of either sex with an unused regular season big game tag. Unused Deer Management Permits (DMPs) may also be used for antlerless deer in the late seasons.

The Southern Zone includes most of Upstate New York, except for Westchester. The boundary separating the Northern and Southern Zones includes a line that: commences at a point at the north shore of the Salmon River and its junction with Lake Ontario and extending easterly along the north shore of that river to the Village of Pulaski; then southerly along Rt. 11 to its intersection with Rt. 49 in the village of Central Square; then easterly along Rt. 49 to its junction with Rt. 365 in the City of Rome; then easterly along Rt. 365 to its junction with Rt. 28 in the Village of Trenton; then easterly along Rt. 28 to its junction with Rt. 29 in the Village of Middleville; then easterly along Rt. 29 to its junction with Rt. 4; then northerly along Rt. 4 to its junction with Rt. 22; then northerly and westerly along Rt. 22 to the eastern shore of South Bay on Lake Champlain in the Village of Whitehall; then northerly along the eastern shore of South Bay to the New York/Vermont boundary.

In the Northern Zone, which generally includes the Adirondacks, the Tug Hill Plateau, the Eastern Lake Ontario Plain, and the Champlain and St. Lawrence valleys, the regular deer and bear hunting season opened October 18, 2003, and closes December 7, 2003.

New York's deer management program strives to maintain deer herds at levels compatible with people's use of the land, while minimizing negative impacts and providing high-quality hunting opportunities and other recreational benefits. To aid in determining desired deer population sizes, local Citizen Task Forces are convened by DEC to represent a broad range of public interests and are charged with developing a desired deer population level for the area in which they live. Citizen Task Forces consider many issues during the process, including habitat availability and the concerns of farmers, foresters, conservationists, the tourism industry, motorists, businesses and hunters. DEC uses regulated deer hunting to achieve the desired deer population level in each Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) across the State.

"Deer hunters provide a valuable public service by keeping deer populations in check. By harvesting female deer, hunters help limit the growth of the deer population and reduce the negative impacts of the deer herd," Commissioner Crotty said. "Regulated hunting is the most effective and efficient tool to maintain deer populations at levels that are compatible with the needs of our State's residents."

Since late August, DEC has issued over 660,000 Deer Management Permits (DMPs) through the DEC Automated License System (DECALS). A DMP allows a hunter to take an antlerless deer in addition to the deer allowed by the regular, bowhunting, and muzzleloading licenses. Regulations were changed last year to allow hunters to use their DMPs in all Southern Zone seasons, including the early and late special seasons. Additional DMPs are still available in the archery only units as well as selected units in Western New York.

DEC is continuing efforts to prevent the introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which has been detected in both captive and wild deer and elk herds in 12 Midwestern states and two Canadian provinces. CWD is a rare neurological disease that affects the brains of deer and elk, causing the animals to become emaciated, lose body functions, and eventually die.

On July 30, 2003, DEC adopted a permanent regulation on CWD, focusing on import restrictions and wild deer feeding issues, as part of DEC's comprehensive CWD management effort. Included in this effort is a statistically valid sampling plan to survey the State's wild deer herd for the presence of CWD. Since April 2002, more than 1,500 samples have been collected from deer in New York and CWD has not been detected.

Extensive research has been conducted throughout the country and, to date, there is no scientific evidence that the disease can be transmitted to humans. DEC will continue to monitor New York's deer herd for the presence of CWD through random testing and surveillance. The most up-to-date information on New York State's CWD monitoring efforts, as well as the full text of the CWD regulation, can be found on the DEC website at

Commissioner Crotty encouraged hunters to follow a few simple safety rules ("ACT Sure") that can prevent hunting related shooting incidents:

* Assume every gun is loaded. Unload guns when not in use, but never take chances with any firearm;

* Control the muzzle - keep it pointed in a safe direction;

* Trigger finger -- off the trigger until ready to shoot.

* Sure of your target and beyond.

* Wear Hunter Orange. Don't be a victim! Four out of five hunters wear hunter orange and, since 1992, not one of them was mistaken for a deer and killed. The experience of millions of hunters, as well as many scientific studies indicate that deer are not alarmed by hunter orange. More information about deer vision and hunter safety can be found on the DEC website at

Safety-conscious hunters are reducing the number of firearms-related injuries, but falls from tree stands result in four-times as many serious injuries as shooting incidents. Hunters who use tree stands are reminded to follow the following safety rules:

* Strap in - use a safety harness that supports the legs and torso, with a SHORT tether to prevent falls;

* Climb up and down with your safety harness. Most falls happen while climbing or getting in and out of the stand;

* NEVER climb with a gun or bow; raise and lower them with a rope --UNLOADED; and

* Use sturdy, portable tree stands. Permanent stands can rot.