Great To See Hunters With Family, Friends
Special to The Citizen Auburn While I typically write from my home or office, this month I am typing from our hunting camp in the Adirondacks. After a beautiful day in the woods, it’s nice to relax by the woodstove, writing this column and pondering tomorrow’s hunt. We’ve arrived at late November — a wonderful time of year for deer hunters. The whitetail rut presses on, and the season is not over yet. If you’re lucky you might even find some snow. The Southern Zone archery season has ended, and gun season has begun. I was fortunate to take a nice eight-point with my bow early this month, and have since been focusing on filling my rifle tag in the North Country. I did however give the Southern Zone gun opener a try — my first true opening day in the Finger Lakes. I was amazed at the amount of trucks on the road and hunters in the drive-thru. Every field I passed had a vehicle parked nearby. It was awesome to experience that amount of participation and community involvement in the thing that I love most. It was just as I had imagined. The Northern Zone has been hunter heavy as well this season. New York state has thousands of new hunters this year, and it seems many of them have taken to the woods. State Forests and Wildlife Management Area parking lots seem more crowded, and social media shows an abundance of first time hunters having success in the field. As with any topic, there are mixed feelings about safety concerns, trail crowding and other issues that come with an increase in hunter participation. That said, I think it is incredible that so many new people have joined the tradition of whitetail deer hunting in our state, and I wish them well! After opening day in the Finger Lakes, I headed north. Our deer camp is home this time of year. We’ve spent the last week hunting swamps, ridges, hemlock stands and old logging roads, trying to catch up to a big woods whitetail. We’d hoped for snow, but most days have been warm and rainy. No luck yet, but we’ll keep trying. Regardless, it’s been a wonderful week in the woods and another great season overall! Despite an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in a portion of southern New York, the statewide deer herd seems to be doing well. At least from my own (nonscientific and very anecdotal) conversations, folks seem to be seeing more deer, more bucks and bigger bucks throughout the state. New York has always had some large deer in the mix, but this year I have seen more high caliber bucks harvested than ever before. More people seem to be passing up smaller bucks, and finding success with older, more mature deer. While many people just want to take a deer for the freezer (and there is absolutely no shame in that!) it would seem that from western New York to the Adirondacks, our deer are getting bigger! With the late season moving in, there is still time to get out there and try for a whitetail! Rifle season will move into early December in both zones, and subsequent late muzzleloader seasons will take place as well. Late season is a great time of year to shed some of the rigor and pressure of hunting, get together with friends and family, and just have fun with it. Doe permits and deer drives will be on the docket for a lot of people. Remember to be safe and wear orange! Report your harvest If you are fortunate enough to tag a deer this season, don’t forget to report your harvest. It’s required by law, and an important part of our wildlife management system. Reporting your harvest is easy to do, and serves as an enjoyable final step in taking a deer, bear or turkey in New York state. Do it with pride and know that you are participating in the scientific process! With Thanksgiving taking place this week, there is so much to be grateful for as a hunter and angler, as an American, and as a human being. I’m thankful for this deer season. I’m thankful for the time I get to spend outside, for clean air, clean water and access to bountiful wildlife. I’m thankful for my family and friends, for our health and safety, and for all of the people who fight for us — those who fight for peace and those who fight for freedom. I’m thankful for those who keep this country safe and those who keep it beautiful. Give thanks for your opportunities this year, and give thanks for the great outdoors. If you can, go take advantage of the remaining 2020 deer season. ------------------ Nate Kennedy is a Liverpool resident who works in Waterloo. An Ogdensburg native, he is a lifelong hunter and angler who holds a master's degree in environmental communication from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and he is a 4-H educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County. Kennedy loves to write about and share his outdoor pursuits and his column appears the final Sunday of the month.