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By Lacey Gardner

In the Outdoors: New York state deer season starts Saturday

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Regulation changes for 2024, weather outlook, and the “state of the rut”

By Oak Duke

     New York State’s firearm deer season starts with a bang on Saturday.

     Actually, many bangs, as over a half million hunters, all hoping to get some venison, take to the woods and fields in pursuit of the million and a half deer here.

     Changes:

     Two main regulation changes from previous years.

  1. All deer hunters are required to wear a blaze (florescent) orange/pink vest or hat while hunting with a firearm. Previously, it was wisely and strongly suggested. Now it’s the law.
  2. Shooting starts one half hour before sunrise and ends one half hour after sunset. Previously, hunters were only allowed to hunt and shoot from sunrise to sunset.

     Sunrise here in Allegany County for Opening Day is 7:05 am and sunset is at 4:48. Do the math to determine when to shoot.

     Each day’s sunrise is later than the previous one, and sunset is earlier until we get to December 21, the Winter Solstice.

     So hunters are required to calculate their legal shooting times, depending upon their hunting location.

     And remember, the sun rises earlier in the eastern part of the state and sets later in the west.

     The regular deer season here in the Southern Zone of New York state runs from November 18 to December 10.

     Then, the Late Bow/muzzleloader season starts, December 11 and runs until December 19.

     3. After a five-day ceasefire, deer season starts again with the new post-Christmas bow/muzzloader season running from December 26th through January 1, 2024. (Westchester, Suffolk County, and the Adirondacks (Northern Zone) have their own specific deer hunting dates and those interested in hunting there are urged to use the New York state regulations guide, easily found online.

     Weather:

     According to the long-range NOAA weather forecast, Saturday is supposed to be a beautiful, albeit cool, sunny day, with a high temperature of 45 degrees. F. But weather forecasts, almost a week out from the timing of this writing, have been known to miss the mark. And since it will not be bitterly cold, hunters will tend to sit in their Opening Day stands longer, before moving around. Here patience is most likely to be rewarded.

     Since deer hunters can expect little to no snow on the ground, they are advised to carefully follow up every shot and look for sign in the leaves.

     Many hunters prefer to hunt with a tracking snow not only because it makes reading sign quicker and clearer…snow cover allows us to pick out brown animals against a white background.

     State of the Whitetail Rut:

     Contrary to what hunters may currently read online by Rut forecasters, proclaiming that the Rut is about to happen, and this is the best time to be afield in pursuit of whitetails…the Rut has happened.

     Actually, the 2023 whitetail Rut, as predicted here, kicked off in late October with the typical Silent Estrus. That’s when a considerable number of does begin their estrus process, but most won’t stand.

     The resultant whitetail activity of chasing and running day and night is a complex behavioral milieu of bucks chasing doe and as much if not more, bucks after each other.

     This Rut phase peaked under the Full Moon around Halloween.

     The annual early Rut phenomenon, then quickly shifted gears as does and bucks settled down to await the moment when the does would allow, because the time was right for actual breeding. (Of course these comments are generalities and there are always exceptions in nature.) 

     Deer hunters on Opening Day in the Southern Zone now, a couple weeks later, can expect to see multi-dimensional or layered buck activity, as some are hooked up and running with does, at the tail-end of Lockdown, especially the alphas, getting spooked and running out of their sanctuary, they move en masse.

     Many bucks, the satellite bucks that revolve around the main breeding nucleus, will be on the move, as deer are broken from their locked down patterns.

     So hunter success can present itself at any time, but especially in later morning and mid-afternoon.

     One caution:

     Being sunny, successful hunters are advised to make sure that their animal is not allowed to hang in the sun. Animals should be cooled down as quickly as possible. I like to keep frozen plastic water bottles in a cooler to put in the body cavity. Much less messy than using bags of melting ice.

Oak Duke/Wellsville, NY/November 2023

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