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NYSDEC Releases 2013 Black Bear and Deer Harvest Results

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2013 was a good year for black bear hunters and deer hunters in New York.

2013 Deer Harvest

Deer hunters had a pretty good year again in New York with approximately 243,550 deer taken during the 2013-14 hunting seasons, nearly equivalent to the 2012-13 hunting season.

This was the second year for New York’s Youth Deer Hunt, held over Columbus Day Weekend. During the Youth Deer Hunt, 14 and 15-year-old junior hunters could take one deer, antlered or antlerless, with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult mentor. An estimated 8,860 junior hunters participated in the Youth Deer Hunt, resulting in 1,275 deer taken (728 adult bucks and 547 antler less deer). This is an excellent program that the state offers and I encourage everyone to take a junior hunter out if they have the opportunity. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience.

The DEC says there is some concern with the deer harvest numbers that continue to show a trends indicating that deer populations are too high – above levels recommended by local stakeholder groups who live, hunt or manage land in those areas. Although we have very liberal antlerless tags in areas like Westchester County, not enough females are being taken to reduce populations to desired levels. The DEC will be considering new ways to the increase antlerless deer take to achieve deer populations that are compatible with ecosystem health and consistent with the public’s interests.

Personally, I think there’s two reasons for this. First, I’m always surprised when I get asked how I get so many deer tags each fall. Westchester County in particular in essence allows you to shoot as many does as you want (you can email a photo of your used 3S tag and the DEC will mail you a new one). I’ve never heard of anyone being denied a replacement tag in 3S, but a lot of hunters don’t know the option is available. Additionally, there are leftover tags you can pick up in the middle of the season which allows you to take advantage of an opportunity that could arise while you’re hunting. During the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons in one particular area I hunt I was able to take 3 does with the bow within a half hour – it doesn’t happen all the time, but having the extra doe tags allowed me to take full advantage of the situation.

Second, I don’t think enough hunters take advantage of donating deer that they can’t consume. A lot of people either don’t know where to drop their deer off – free of charge – or expect there to be a cost associated with it (for those in the Southern Zone Amato’s Meat Processing in Somers is where I go to donate any extra deer).

2013 Black Bear Harvest

Last fall bear hunters took a total of 1,358 black bears making 2013 the second highest bear harvest on record in New York. Not surprisingly the majority of the increase came from the Southeastern zone as black bears have continued to thrive on the habitat New York State provides. With abundant natural foods last season, several bears exceeding the 500 pound mark were reported to the DEC. The black bears we have roaming around are definitely getting bigger – 350 pounds used to be at the higher end for black bear weight.

The Adirondack region actually experienced a fairly significant decline in black bear harvest numbers coming in at 380 black bears in 2013 compared to 606 black bears in 2012. The DEC says that early season harvest numbers were off by 60% due to an abundant soft mast crop. In years of abundant soft mast, bear harvest numbers tend to decline. The regular season bear harvest numbers in the Adirondacks were above average.

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Bear Hunting

New York’s First Early Black Bear Season a Success

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A flourishing black bear population and a newly established early-season give hunters additional opportunities to hunt black bears in New York.

The NYS DEC took a proactive approach to manage the State’s black bear population with the addition of an early black bear season in select WMUs for 2014. The early bear hunting season started on September 6th in portions of Southeastern New York and September 13th in Northern New York

Some of the highlights of the new plan include:

  • New early firearms bear season from September 6-21 in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, and 4R. Any hunting implement, including crossbows, are legal for use during the early black bear season.
  • Expanded bear hunting in northern New York which now includes WMUs 6A, 6G, 6K, and 6N. In these newly opened units, bear hunting begins with bowhunting equipment only from September 13 through October 17.

The downside with the early season bear hunting is the heat – the opening day had temperatures in the mid to high 80s with high humidity. Bear hunters will have to skin their harvest as quickly as possible to cool the meat and prevent spoilage. Hunters might also want to skin and quarter the bear in the field and picking out the meat in game bags.

Here’s a video from one successful hunter during this year’s early black bear season:

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Bear Hunting

Black Bears Around Campsites and Hiking Trails

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Recently, the NYS DEC issued some warnings about camping in areas with black bears. I frequently visit areas like this and it’s good to refresh yourself no matter how seasoned of a backpacker, hiker, or camper you are. Here are some tips from the DEC to remember while camping and hiking in bear country:

  • Store food, toiletries and garbage in bear resistant containers or “food hangs.” If you have no choice but to hang your food, be sure to use a dark colored cord. The cord should be 75 feet long and the bag should be hung 15 feet above the ground and at least 10 feet away from trees.
  • Keep food in hangs or in bear resistant container at all times, take down only what is needed for cooking. Bear resistant canisters are a highly effective means for preventing bears from getting food, toiletries and garbage from back country campers. For more information about bear resistant containers, see the DEC webpage at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7225.html.
  • Bear resistant containers are required to be used by all overnight campers within the Eastern High Peaks Wilderness Zone of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.
  • Never leave food unattended unless it is in a bear resistant container or in a food hang.
  • Never cook or eat in your sleeping area.
  • Cook early, no later than 5 p.m.
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Bear Hunting

Maine Black Bear Raffle

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This was something I came across that you don’t quite hear about everyday, but I thought it was worth mentioning and spreading the word about.In the little town of North Berwick, Maine, 200 Noble High School students are trying to raise $100,000 for a school music trip down to New York City. However, selling cup cakes just wasn’t cutting it so one of the student’s grandfather decided to offer up a raffle for a 6-day black bear hunt.

Grandfather of a choral student in the school music department and a Master Maine Guide, Varney figured the sale of $10 tickets for a chance to hunt at one of his son’s 50 “bear sites” might help raise the funds needed for the children to make the trip.

The winner gets lodging and meals for two at one of the family’s bear camps in northwestern Maine for the first week of the 2008 bear-hunting season. Hot and cold running water, “a flush toilet,” bedding and meals — including a lobster bake and “trash can turkey” dinner — are included. A Ragged Lake Guide Service guide is part of the prize and winners are warned their cell phones won’t work at the remote camp.

Winners who don’t want to hunt can photograph bears and other wildlife in the remote area between Mt. Katahdin and the Canadian border, said Varney, or take $1,000 cash.

Tickets will be sold until April 30 and the winner drawn May 1. Rod and gun clubs are getting out the word and Noble music boosters will be selling tickets at the Kittery Trading Post on Feb. 2.

To purchase tickets for the Black bear hunt raffle, or more information send inquires to Varney at noblesro@sad60.k12.me.us.

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