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Oct. 1, 2010
Venison on the Hoof -
Deer Season Lasts 12 Weeks in Oswego County
By Spider Rybaak
Zack Jadus and his grandfather, Paul Cooper, pose with this fine buck taken a few years ago in the Town of Oswego.
Split almost evenly in half by NY's northern and southern zones-one of only six counties set in both-Oswego County offers deer hunting opportunities from September 27 (bowhunting) through December 21, 2010.
The county's geographic location boasts one of the widest varieties of deer habitats in the state. Its western half lies in the southern zone, specifically, the Great Lakes Plains, an area notorious for large quantities of massive deer. Its eastern half, entirely located in the northern zone, is split into three Wildlife Management Units, including the Tug Hill's WMU 6N, one of the harshest habitats in the state, where only the strongest, biggest deer survive.
In 2008 (2009's figures weren't available at press time), the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recorded 2,349 bucks taken in Oswego County, making it one of the top 25 destinations for hunters looking to bag a rack. Considering last winter's unseasonably mild weather had a tough time killing off even the weakest deer, our forests are full, making this year's big game hunting season one of the most promising in years.
In its "2010 Deer Hunting Season Forecasts" (http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/37304.html), DEC predicts this year's total take should be slightly less than in the past two. Not because of lower numbers of deer, but because the agency issued fewer Deer Management Permits, aka doe permits, in an attempt to reduce the antlerless take slightly in many Wildlife Management Units (WMU)
That's good and bad: good because there's going to be a lot more deer running around after opening day, giving even the most challenged hunters exciting sightings for the entire season; bad because a lot of these guys will be frustrated, forced to leave the woods with memories without the meat.
Still, a forest floor ablaze in a carpet of reds and golds, or muffled in a sparkling blanket of freshly fallen snow; and the chance of hearing or seeing a deer rushing through after winding you, is payment enough for spending a morning in solitude listening to chevrons honking overhead, and watching critters ranging from squirrels and ruffed grouse to rabbits and turkeys coming upon you, getting all nervous and shooting you a look asking "what are you doing here?"
No Gains Without Pains
However, with all the deer out there, your chances of bringing home the bacon are pretty good.
Here's a quick analysis of what the DEC predicts for Oswego County's four WMUs.
WMU 6G: Nestled in the Eastern Lake Ontario plain, this unit consists mostly of rich agricultural land. Deer thrive here and their numbers remain larger than DEC's objectives.
WMU 6K: Wrapping around the northern, southern and western edge of the Tug Hill Plateau, this WMU receives heavy snowfall each year and its herd's numbers ebb and flow with the conditions. Lately, mild winters have allowed the herd's population to grow substantially.
WMU 6N: Located deep in the Tug Hill Plateau, an area famed for receiving the heaviest annual snowfall in the Northeast, the deer herd is one of the state's smallest. However, blessed with a mild winter and good fawning this summer, the population promises to be larger than normal this hunting season.
WMU 7A: Sprawling over relatively flat country, this area doesn't offer much visibility, unless you're hunting in a field. DEC says last year's "bow hunter sighting log index of total deer observed showed a slight decline," but the buck take rose slightly. This suggests hunters are seeing less deer but are shooting more, and most would agree that's a good thing: a buck in the truck is worth two in the woods.
This area lacks public access, and the DEC would like to get more data on the herd. While the soil isn't the best for farming, a lot of farmers try making a go at it. Lance Clark, a Senior Wildlife Biologist with DEC Region 7, says "With the damage unmanaged deer can do, I would believe some farmers would be happy to allow you to hunt deer on their property. You have to do your footwork...and just ask."
Nowadays, folks are more health conscious than ever before. Their two biggest bogeymen are lack of exercise and high cholesterol. Deer hunting offers a remedy for both: It gets you out into the fresh air and, if things go right, fills your freezer with the leanest red meat you'll find anywhere.
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