Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

October 20, 2013

Bill Hilts' Weekly Outdoors Column

By Bill Hilts Jr.
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — No animal has more of an effect on hunters, hunting and the local economy than the white-tailed deer. This is big game in every sense of the word in the Empire State and the numbers bear that out. 

In the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, New York State ranked third for resident hunters at nearly 740,000 individuals generating over $2.1 billion in expenditures. Add in a ninth place ranking for nonresident hunters (84,000), spending $115 million, and you can see that this spells big business in this state. 

Add in one more fact: Over 752,000 of those hunters are deer hunters.

Nothing can dominate a conversation around hunting circles like deer can. No topic can cause sportsmen to be as passionate — and opinionated — as the topic of deer. At the top of the list (outside of the favorite “big deer” deer stories that make the rounds every fall) are heart-felt discussions on Quality Deer Management (QDM) and Antler Restrictions (AR) — conversations that seem to be increasing every year. 

This deer-influenced attitude among the hunting fraternity isn’t confined to just New York. If you really want to see how deer is affecting and impacting America’s world of hunting and beyond, you need to check out Al Cambronne’s new book, “Deerland: America’s Hunt for Ecological Balance and the Essence of Wildness.” 

It aims at the subject of deer and deer hunting and finds the mark as he proves that deer populations are a huge consideration when it comes to sporting goods stores and other deer-related companies, body shop owners, gardeners, hunters and wildlife watchers. 

With more than 30 million deer in the United States, they have become the most important focus in the outdoor world when it comes to economics, attitudes and dedication afield. They have changed real estate values in some areas, such as Northern Wisconsin where Buffalo County is legendary in the world of the big buck. 

This book is a not just for deer hunters. It’s just as important for nonhunters, especially if you sit on the fencepost for or against hunting in general. It gives you a different perspective on whitetail deer, giving you a serious glimpse into America’s deer industrial complex (one of the chapter titles in the book). 

New York’s Antler Restrictions 

In New York, an Antler Restriction program is in place in 11 Wildlife Management Units (WMU) in Southeastern New York. These are designed to protect a majority of yearling (1.5 years old) bucks from harvest. 

So far, things seem to be working as planned in those WMUs, according to Gordon Batcheller, Chief of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Bureau of Wildlife.

“DEC plans no changes to the mandatory antler restrictions that have been put into place this year,” said Batcheller, who is an avid deer hunter. “We do plan to conduct a public survey this fall to try and get a better view of hunter opinion on this topic.”

The current AR restrictions require hunters to be selective on what bucks to harvest. One antler must have at least three legal points of one inch or more, a rule that applies to both public and private land. Junior hunters ages 12 to 15 are exempt from the three point requirement.

Currently, DEC would rather see a voluntary approach in areas that do not have antler restrictions and ask hunters to consider the protection of young bucks on their own. The agency encourages hunters to work with local sportsmen’s clubs or adjacent landowners to develop voluntary antler restrictions on a cooperative basis. 

This approach seems to working because fewer yearling bucks are being harvested across the state — from an estimated 70 percent of the bucks being harvested in the early 1990s to less than 55 percent in 2011. Contrary to hunter opinion in many instances, hunters are harvesting more older-aged bucks in the state than ever before — and the numbers substantiate that.

QDM will be the focus in a future article.

Whitetails by the Moon 

Every year we try to discuss a little bit about Charlie Alsheimer’s book “Hunting Whitetails by the Moon,” and attempt to predict deer behavior as it relates to the lunar phases. According to the book, 2013 is an anomaly. 

With the pre-rut moon occurring on Sept. 21 and the rutting moon occurring last night (Oct. 19), there wasn’t enough data to accurately predict what’s going to happen this year.

Based on previous years, the prime chase period for bucks and does will be Oct. 16-25 and the breeding window will be Oct. 26 to Nov. 8. However, Alsheimer points out that there’s a good chance everything could be thrown back a month — meaning the chase phase and the breeding window will occur mid- to late November and carry over into December. 

With the early opening of the regular season this year (Nov. 16) in the Southern Zone, that’s good news for gun hunters.

Successful Youth Hunt 

John Baldassara of Lewiston passed along that his daughter, Nina, connected with her first whitetail deer ever on opening morning of the youth hunt last weekend. 

The 14-year-old was hunting a favorite spot in Jasper, Steuben County just 10 minutes after sunrise when a 120-pound six point buck moved into range. Taking aim with her .243 Remington, she scored a perfect shot at 50 yards.

Baldassara has taken his daughter hunting before — turkey and archery deer — but only as an observer, and he was excited to see her successful on her first official hunt. 

“She was more excited than I would have expected,” said Baldassara. “It was great to see.” 

That’s what the youth weekend is all about. Congrats to Nina.

Bill Hilts Jr. is an outdoor writer with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation. Contact him at billhiltsjr@gmail.com.

Today • Open house, The Woods at Bear Creek (a new "glamping" resort, noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Located at 3510 Bear Creek Road off Route 16) near Franklinville. For more information log on to www.thewoodsatbearcreek.com or call 297-8401. • Contemplation at the Oldest State Park in the Nation -- Niagara Falls State Park. Nature hike will take place from 1-3 p.m. For information and registration call 282-5154. Tomorrow • Niagara River Anglers Association general membership meeting at a different location for this month only -- the Sanborn Area Farm Museum Meeting Hall, 2660 Saunders Settlement Rd. Sanborn. Guest speaker will be 90-year-old ice fishing expert Joe Montgomery from Southern Ontario. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. sharp. The club will also be holding nominations for officers and directors. • Town of Wheatfield Firearms Safety & Education Committee will meet at 2800 Church Road in Wheatfield starting at 7 p.m. • Firearms hunter safety training class at Middleport Rod and Gun Club, Mountain and Freeman Road, Middleport from 6-10 p.m. Parts two and three will be held Oct. 22 and 23, same times. This class is full. Wednesday • Somerset Conservation Club general membership meeting at 7:30 p.m. located on Johnson Creek Road, Barker. • Duck blind drawings begin for Fort Niagara, Wilson-Tuscarora and Golden Hill state parks at the Fort Niagara State Park Maintenance Building at 5:30 p.m. sharp. You must have a current small game license, a HIP number and successfully completed a waterfowl ID class. Call 745-7273 for more info. Other drawing dates are Oct. 30; Nov. 6, 13, 20 and 27; Dec. 4, 26; Jan. 2, 8. Thursday • Wilson Conservation Club Auxiliary monthly meeting at 2934 Wilson-Cambria Road, Wilson starting at 7:30 p.m. Friday • First duck blind drawing for the first half of the waterfowl season at Beaver Island State Park, West River Parkway, and Strawberry Island will be held at the Beaver Island Clubhouse basement, Grand Island with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the drawing taking place at 6:30 p.m. You must be present. This will be for 10-26 thru 10-28. Drawings will be held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. For more information contact 773-3271 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. • Niagara River Anglers Assn. first annual Haunted Hay Ride, 1134 Balmer Road, Youngstown starting at 7 p.m. For more info contact Bill Mayes at 531-3430. • Trapping season for raccoon, fox, skunk, opossum, coyote and weasel opens for Western New York. Saturday • Iroquois Arms Collectors will hold a Gun Show in Niagara Falls at the Frontier Volunteer Fire Company, 2176 Liberty Drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday the doors will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Open to the public. For more info call 876-9815. • Ducks, coots, mergansers and Canada/snow goose seasons open in the Western Zone for waterfowl and the West Central and South Zone (which includes Niagara County) for geese. • Niagara River Anglers Assn. 1st Annual Haunted Hay Ride, 1134 Balmer Road, Youngstown starting at noon to 5 p.m. for a hayride and costume contest for kids; 7 p.m. for an evening haunted hayride. For more info contact Bill Mayes at 531-3430.