By DICK NELSON
For The Recorder
By way of introduction, I wear a size 11 hunting boot. I mention this only because I'll be occupying this space Ron Kolodziej recently vacated, and despite the size of my tootsies, I'm still going to have big shoes to fill. Ron has been a fixture on this page for more than 42 years, providing readers on just about everything outdoors. I say "just about" because I don't ever recall reading anything about ice skating. Hopefully I'll live up to the task of keeping you as well informed, and where better to begin than with the big game hunting season.
The regular gun season has been open in the Northern Zone since Oct. 26 and in the Southern Tier since last Saturday and so far it hasn't been up to snuff. There are no preliminary numbers for the Northern Zone, but according to DEC spokesperson Lori Severino, the reported take for opening weekend in the Southern Tier appears to be about nine percent below last year's reported take, which she attributed to warm conditions that in turn reduced deer movements.
"These opening weekend effects tend to wash out over time as the season progresses; especially given the number of Deer Management Permits we've got available this year," Severino said; adding that biologist expect that by Thanksgiving weekend the reported take will surpass the 2012 reported take to date.
Even the bear kill has been down; especially up north where the total harvest to date is 47 percent lower than last year - 252 compared to 479. According to DEC Regional Citizen Participation Specialist Wendy Rosenbach, much of that low bear kill can be attributed to fewer bruins taken during the combined early bow and muzzleloading season -- 110 versus 381 a year ago.
Although not as bad as the Northern Zone, the overall bear kill to date in the Southeastern Zone (Catskills and Hudson Valley) was 9 percent lower than the previous year -- 307 compared to 338. Here too bow hunters didn't fare to well --173 compared to 225 the previous year. However, the bear kill during the regular season is up. As of Tuesday it was 134 compared to 113 during this same time last year.
On the other hand, the total harvest to date is up by 10 percent in the Central and Western region with 196 bears taken compared to 178 a year ago. Robin Hood's accounted for 111 of those bruins, with gunners dropping 85 since Saturday.
But that part of the state has always had a high bear kill, mostly because a lot of those bruins enter New York from Pennsylvania. And, I can't say that I blame them.
Last year Keystone State bear hunters hauled out a total of 3,632, during the short nine-day season -- the largest hitting the scale at 709 pounds. So you can see why any self respecting black bear would be anxious to get out of Dodge. I know I would, if only to take advantage of the peace and quiet.
Things are pretty quiet at Tuman's Tavern in Amsterdam. At least as far as the buck pool is concerned. According to Frank Szyjkowski, of the 30 hunters who are entered, no one has yet to register a buck.
However, less than 20 miles away at the Fuel n' Food Market in Mayfield, about 10 percent of the more than 350 hunters entered in its deer contest have registered a deer. And with 11 categories up for grabs, I'm sure there will be a lot more before all the shooting comes to an end on Dec. 8.
According to Nancy Stutzke, Daniel Ivancic is in the lead for the "heaviest deer" right now with a 196-pound monster carrying a a rocking chair rack that had an 18.5-inch spread, while Aaron Robinson is in the lead for the heaviest bear - 154 pounds.
Wayne Dingman already won the gold (cash) for the Early Muzzleloading Season category and with the buck sporting a 4 3/8-inch brow tines he's in the running for that category.
Jarret Cheny has arrowed the prize for the heaviest deer taken during the early bow season. The buck weighed 135.6 pounds.
Matt Wendt also picked up some cash in the Northern Zone Early Bow category for a buck that weighed 132 pounds and sported an 8-point rack with a 14-inch spread.
So far the 10-inch spike buck Pat Emrick brought in is tops in that category, while the 72.8-pound deer Julie Van Alston laid to rest is in contention for the "Lightest Buck."
On the opposite side of that category Nick Wall's 162-pound doe is going to be tough to beat.
The number of deer brought into taxidermist and processors is another good indicator on how the season is going and in that regard, Butcher Block Custom Meat Packing in Nelliston (518-993-4182) has cut up about 20, while Ira Cromling of True Life Taxidermy in Broadalbin (518-883-8114) has had about a dozen brought in for mounting, including a nifty 8 pointer Scott Keith of Waterford nailed.
Anyone who doesn't connect this weekend and/or the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend is going to have a tough time filling his or her tag. Bucks - even the young ones -- get smart after awhile. Especially if they've been shot at a couple of times, Hunters too should be on the alert as well.
I know camouflaged - be it Realtree, Advantage, Mossy Oak, Matrix or any other pattern - is popular among hunters. I have several patterns myself. But I'm bright enough to wear something visible as well, and you should be too.
It's nice to walk into the woods, but it's even nicer when you can walk out in one piece.
There have already been 10 hunting incidents since the Southern Zone deer season began, including one fatality.
The fatality took place near Cooperstown when a 52-year-old Long Island man was shot in the chest. And, while three other hunters were found dead in separate incidents, because they died of natural causes the DEC doesn't consider them a hunting statistic - even though one had to be removed from a 20-foot high treestand. That took place in Chautauqua County. The hunter was 69 years of age.
In Region 4, a hunter shot himself in the foot with a 50 caliber muzzleloader, while another was hit in the face with shrapnel, when his gun accidentally discharge as he was loading it. The bullet fragmenting when it hit a skidder five feet away. In yet another incident - one that could have proved deadly -- took place in Otsego County when a bullet went into a house. Fortunately, no one was injured.
In the meantime: The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced that it will hold a public meeting on the draft Tug Hill North Unit Management Plan (UMP) at the Copenhagen Central School cafeteria, 3020 Mechanic Street, Copenhagen on Wednesday, December 4 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
The UMP is calling for a landscape forest management that will hold dense forest canopy cover in the core of the Unit while allowing more early successional habitat management in the northern portion of the Unit; create an additional snowmobile trail that will take the trail off of Nichols Road and move it onto state forest; install a gate on the Adams Road off Pitcher Road in Sears Pond State Forest to only allow motorized access to the right-of-way holder and the DEC for administrative purposes (Foot traffic access for the public will still be allowed); develop trails into each of the scenic gulfs on the Unit and look for opportunities to develop a mountain bike trail system on Pinckney State Forest or another suitable location.
Since this is a long way to travel for what probably is a predetermined proposal, anyone interested on commenting on the plan, may want to save the fuel and submit your comments by mail to: Andrea Mercurio at DEC 7327 State Hwy 812, Lowville, NY 13367 or e-mail email@example.com . Written comments will be accepted until Dec. 20.
Speaking of Tug Hill, the Staying Connected Initiative is hosting a two day workshops on wildlife tracking. The workshops are free and open to the public. Participants will receive expert training on how to interpret wildlife tracks, including a classroom introduction and a variety of indoor and outdoor tracking exercises.
To register call 518-891-8872 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dropping anchor 'til next time.
To contact Dick Nelson with an event, club news or to send a photograph email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Events should include the what, where, when and cost (if any). Photographs should include name of subject(s), town of residency and a brief description of what the photo entails.