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Big game firearm season opens Nov. 16

The one special day of the year that more than half a million New York state big game firearm hunters wait for each year is about to arrive on Nov. 16, when the Southern Tier big game season will open for whitetail deer and black bear at sunrise. The season will run through sunset on Sunday, Dec. 8.

Our Western New York area of Region 9 will offer increased opportunities to harvest deer this year, thanks to a “no-frost” spring allowing apple and mast crops to dominate the food choices for deer and other wildlife.

In addition, we enjoyed an exceptionally mild winter, two years ago, and similarly mild conditions in most of the state again, last winter. As a result, the department of conservation said that deer populations have grown, despite increasing antlerless harvest quotas the past few years.

This means that deer populations throughout many portions of the state are currently in need of substantial reduction. Accordingly, the DEC increased Deer Management Permits (“doe tags”) by about 18 percent this year, with extra tags for WMUs 9A and 9F still available, at the time of this column. The DEC issues DMP tags to control antlerless harvest and move the population closer toward acceptable population levels, using scientific analysis for a healthy deer herd. Meeting management objectives for deer harvest assures that farmers, motorists and others are safer from the damage that over-population of deer can cause.

Tim Speirto, our Region 9 deer biologist, keeps close track of harvest records. Last year, he said DEC records showed that the 2012 deer harvest in Region 9 was more than 6 percent higher than in 2011. This increase in harvest reflects the increase in antlerless opportunities in many of the WMUs, especially in the northern counties of the Southern Tier zone.

Additionally, the DEC reported that records show the region-wide buck harvest rose by a healthy 9 percent. Six of the Region 9 WMUs have deer populations greater than 10 percent above the desired levels. Two units in the region had a 2012 harvest within 10 percent of their objective and six units in the southern counties of Allegany and Cattaraugus have deer populations below objective levels. In these WMUs, more conservative antlerless harvests, through reduced DMP availability, was again necessary, much to the chagrin of hunters in these many popular Allegheny County locations.

While Southern Tier forests are largely mature, the need for habitat improvement with forestation efforts usually brings an improvement in hunting. State forests that have recently been forested and private lands, too, will see new forest growth, new habitat formations and better hunting, since the new growth draws in deer herds once the snow flies.

In Region 9, thanks to the safety record of previous hunters tested in limited areas where rifles were measured for safe use over the last few years, the use of center-fire rifles is now allowed in Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegheny counties. Among most popular rifle bores are the .270 and 30-06 calibers. Increasing numbers of hunters are choosing to hunt with a rifle and scope, allowing for more precision shooting than with a shotgun.

George Mest of Mest Meat Packing on Route 20A in Wyoming County said, “The use of rifles in Wyoming County has provided such clean harvest kills that hunters are able to take home more venison than when deer were downed with one or two or more shotgun slugs. It is easier for us butchers to dress out the meat with a rifle shot deer.”

Many hunters that desire a standard cut will take home four to six roasts, several packages of sirloin steaks, venison chops, stew meat, and about 40 pounds of burger from an average adult deer. For better tasting burger, many hunters add 10 percent ground pork butt to their venison burger. Mest packs the burger in convenient 1- or 2-pound machine-filled plastic filler bags, your choice of size, making it convenient to store in a freezer for up to one year.

After the standard cut, hunters can also order pepper stick, summer sausage, pepperoni stick or venison hot dogs. Any of these adds cost, but the taste is definitely out of this world. Another food processor that provides honest service and has the ability to make these is Bond’s Meats off Route 240 in West Valley/Springville.

If you decide you would like to donate your deer to feed the hungry, the Venison Donation Coalition offers a list of processors where you simply drop off your deer and tell them you are donating it to the Food Bank. For more information, visit

Please be careful, this hunting season. Check that your barrel is clear of debris before heading out; run a clean patch through it, to be sure. When you spot a deer or bear, be absolutely sure of your target; look beyond the target, before you squeeze the trigger. Do not shoot at running deer; there is no way to look beyond your target if you do and, if you hit one that way, the meat is usually tainted. Good luck!

Outdoor calendar:

– Nov. 14: Invasive Species of Lake Erie, informative seminar presentation with Helen Domske of NY Sea Grant, 7 p.m. start, 4968 Lake Shore Road, Hamburg; call 627-2773.

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