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Outdoors with Larry DiDonato

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 12/1/23 | 12/1/23

The Season So Far…

Deer Up

The Southern Zone regular gun season for deer and bear has been open since November 18th and closes on December 10th. The late bow/muzzleloading season follows from December 11th to the 19th followed by the Holiday Hunt from December 26th to January 1st. Each year, NYS DEC wildlife biologists track the reported harvest of deer and bear in NY as part of their big game management strategy. Preliminary examination of the reported take so far in the Southern Zone in 2023, indicates the deer harvest over the entire deer and bear season, (including bow season which began on October 1st), is slightly up from last year. The slight increase this year from that of 2022 in terms of numbers of deer harvested is as follows:  

56,237 deer were reported taken as of November 26th 2023 as opposed to 

54,824 reported taken up until November 27th in 2022. That represents an increase of 2.51 percent. 

To keep this small increase in perspective, the Southern Zone covers a massive land area of NYS from Massachusetts and Vermont, west to Ohio. That being said, just like politics, all deer hunting is local. How much success you have seeing and harvesting deer varies greatly depending upon where you hunt. The old real estate adage of “location, location, location” certainly applies to deer hunting. 

A quick snapshot of cutters in our area indicates the numbers of deer being brought to them for processing is down. Dana, of Berkshire View Custom Butcher Shop in Hannacroix, said they processed 200 deer during the bow season, but numbers are definitely down so far this gun season. She relayed one Albany Hilltown cutter reported being down as much as 40 percent from the same time last year. Across the river in Columbia County, Dan Braisey of Copake reports butchering 90 deer to date but says that number is down from last year as well.

The reported deer take in the Northern Zone to date is up 2.43 percent; almost the identical percentage the Southern Zone’s take is down. DEC cautions the preliminary charted numbers are an index and may not represent a highly precise comparison of harvests from year to year due to variability in reporting rates.

Bear Down

For black bear, the statewide take was substantially less in 2023 than that of 2022. In the Southern Zone, 480 black bears were harvested through November 20th 2023 with 534 taken during the same period in 2022. That’s a 10.11 percent year over year decrease. Northern Zone bear harvest was down 3.48 percent with 333 taken in 2023 versus 345 harvested in 2022. The decrease was anticipated by biologists due to the relative abundant food availability this year when compared to a lack of natural forage available on the landscape in 2022. The simple formula here is when drought or other conditions reduce bear’s natural food items of soft and hard mast, they become more vulnerable to hunters. The opposite is true in years of abundant natural forage.  

So, with the generous length of NY’s deer seasons, there’s still time to get out and bag your buck, harvest a plump doe for the freezer, or even harvest a bear before it all ends. Above all, be safe and enjoy the rest of the season. 

DEC once again reminds hunters and non-hunters alike to “Be Safe and Be Seen” by wearing blaze orange and blaze pink while in the fields and woods this fall. They also stress vigilance in following the cardinal rues of hunter safety:

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded;

  • Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction;

  • Keep fingers off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot; 

  • Always be sure of the target and what is beyond.

Good luck, happy hunting, and have a safe and productive deer season!  

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