New York's Top Late-Season Deer Hunts

New York's Top Late-Season Deer Hunts

These proven public lands in the Empire State offer hunters plenty of great deer hunting. Get off your sofa and give it one more try. (December 2008)

December means that many New York hunters have either filled their tags or simply called it a season.

But for the rest of us, plenty of good hunting opportunities are still available. The tail ends of the regular deer and bear seasons remain in the Northern and Southern zones.

The late muzzleloading season is still open in some portions of the Northern Zone, and the late archery-muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone is yet another option.

Deer hunting in December won't be like it was during early fall when a sea of orange coats filled the woods. The late season is reserved for diehards who want to test their skills against inclement weather in pursuit of that final doe or buck of the year.

Don't be fooled. December hunting across New York can be challenging. Many mature bucks have had arrows aimed at them and hot lead fired at them. You won't find them cruising down their favorite rutting paths they used in November.

But they're still out there. All you need to do is find them.

Jeremy Hurst, a wildlife biologist for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, said that he's anticipating a slight deer population growth in much of the state this season, and a slight increase in the overall deer take.

"Over the past three years, generally mild winters have allowed our deer population to rebound following the hard winters of 2002-03," he said. "Deer Management Assistance Program permit allocations will also be up about 13 percent from last year."

Here's a look at some top areas around the state good public hunting this month.

HANGING BOG WMA

Located in Alleghany County, this 4,571-acre area offers a great mix of conifers, wetlands, open fields and food plots. Hunting pressure is relatively low, giving you plenty of opportunities to break away from the crowd and find that perfect spot.

With its steep hills, the terrain can be challenging at times, but also offers some good places to stage a hunt.

This area is used by a good number of non-hunters as well, so use caution.

There are plenty of deer in this area. Your best chances are going to be in the brushy valleys. Find the thick cover, and the deer will be there. (Continued)

This wildlife area lies in the town of New Hudson. From Exit 28 (Cuba) off the Route 17 expressway, follow Route 305 north to the New Hudson Road intersection and take the New Hudson Road northward.

For more information, contact the Alleghany County Tourism Center, Crossroads Commerce and Conference Center, 6087 State Route 19 North, Belmont, NY 14813.

Or call (585) 268-7472.

FINGER LAKES NATIONAL FOREST

At 16,000 acres, the Finger Lakes National Forest is a prime location for late-season whitetails.

Spread across the southern portion of Seneca County and the northeast region of Schuyler County, this forest is a prime territory to hunt.

The forest is divided into many different sections, and it's not uncommon to get turned around and end up where you aren't allowed to be. Get a good feel for the land and buy yourself a good topographic map.

The Finger Lakes National Forest holds some good resources for deer -- ample food sources, decent cover and for hunters, plenty of room to roam and little hunting pressure at this time of year.

Plenty of hedgerows are scattered around the property. Still-hunting near the field edges should give hunters some good opportunities. Invest in some good binoculars, scan the area and then plan your approach.

To obtain a map of the area, contact the ranger's office at (607) 546-4470. The office lies outside Watkins Glen in the town of Hector on Route 414.

The DEC's Region 8 office in Avon at (585) 226-2466 is another good source of information on these areas.

For lodging and general information, call Seneca County Tourism at 1-800-732-1848.

RATTLESNAKE HILL WMA

With 5,000 acres within its borders, the Rattlesnake Hill WMA is small compared to some of its WMA counterparts, but it holds some bruiser bucks and plenty of does.

Located in northern Allegany County and southern Livingston County, Rattlesnake Hill WMA is a sure-fire bet. Allegany County is known as a top contender for the most deer taken every year, and 2008 should be no different.

December is the perfect time to hunt this parcel. Finding that perfect spot on opening day can be a challenge. But as the crowds fade, the land opens up, and deer get back into their routines. Depending on the weather, it can also be a prime opportunity to knock down a deer in some of the open fields.

In December, Rattlesnake Hill has everything a whitetail hunter needs. Rolling hills with mixed brush and hardwoods provide ample food sources for deer. Old apple orchards, berry bushes and mast draw them in from far and wide. Setting up near these food sources should produce results.

To get there from the town of Dansville, take Route 436 west. Look for Walworth Road and turn left. Take Walworth to the end, and it becomes Ebert Road, which runs through the area.

To obtain a map of the WMA, contact the DEC's Region 8 office in Avon at (585) 226-2466.

For information on lodging and other hunting opportunities, try the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce at (716) 243-4160.

ALLEGHENY STATE PARK

If you're looking for big woods room to roam, Allegheny State Park is the ticket.

The park offers plenty of campsites and cabins to accommodate a group of friends or family for a week of hunting. Also, December typically means less competition, and plenty of deer are still available there.

Allegheny SP features some deep ravines and dense hardwoods. The deer population is healthy and growing, but finding them can be a challenge. With 65,000 acres and most of it open to hunting, it can be a little daunting setting up for a suc

cessful hunt. Your best approach is to visit ahead, scout the most promising areas and pick out a few key locations for your stand.

Hunters can easily get lost on this vast public land, so be prepared and study a map well ahead of time.

Bring a good GPS and a compass with you into the woods and know how to use them.

To reserve a campsite, call 1-800- 456-CAMP, or call the park office for information at (716) 354-9121.

The park is easy to get to. From either west or east on Interstate Route 86, signs outside of Salamanca indicate where the park is.

CARLTON HILL WMA

Covering 2,580 acres of public land in Wyoming County and operated by the DEC and Sulpher Springs, this tract gives hunters ample opportunities for filling their leftover tags.

The area is heavily forested, with plenty of cover for deer when the cold winds of December blow. The area is also littered with acorns. As any seasoned hunter knows, when the ground is frozen and food is scarce, leftover acorns provide hungry whitetails with a good food supply.

This area is in the town of Middlebury, three miles north of the village of Warsaw. It lies east of Dale Road and borders Bank Road on both sides.

PHARSALIA WMA

At the northern part of Chenango County is Pharsalia Wildlife Management Area. Excellent forest cover surrounds this WMA, making it ideal for late-season whitetail hunting.

At a shade under 5,000 acres, this WMA is primarily forested and surrounded with good sources of browse. It also has a good mix of dense cover for deer to hide in.

Pharsalia WMA lies about 10 miles northwest of Norwich along state Route 23. Maintenance roads from this route provide access.

Perkins Pond and New Michigan state forests, Beaver Meadow and Otselic state forests surround this area, giving hunters a total of over 50,000 acres to roam. Finding deer this time of year may be accomplished with a little research and understanding of the lands.

For more on the area and accommodations, contact the Chenango County Chamber of Commerce at 19 Eaton Avenue, Norwich, NY 13815.

Or try them by phone at (877) 243-6264.

CANADAWAY CREEK

This area of roughly 2,080 acres offers plenty of access for hunting. Rolling hills, oak trees and their acorns and agricultural land make this an ideal hangout for whitetails. You may not get the trophy you're after, but the chances for taking a December deer are high.

Located in Chautauqua County, Canadaway Creek WMA is a hotbed for hunting in early winter. It's known across the state for being a prime producer for the quantity and quality of deer taken, year after year.

This WMA features mature trees, conifers and food sources. When the snow and wind are coming off Lake Erie this time of year, hunters should target some of the inland valleys and natural funnels.

This area lies in the town of Arkwright, four miles northeast of the village of Cassadaga and six miles southeast of the village of Fredonia. It borders county routes 312 (Bard Road) and 629 (Center Road).

For more information, phone the regional DEC office at (716) 372-8678, or contact the folks at the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau at 1-800-242-4569.

b>HAPPY VALLEY WMA

Happy Valley WMA is a unique hunting opportunity that offers you every possible opportunity to harvest a nice whitetail in December.

Located in Oswego County, the Happy Valley Wildlife Management Area lies off Route 104 in the towns of Parish and Albion.

With 8,645 acres to roam, hunters have their choice of scenarios. Mature hardwoods, old logging roads and plenty of cover are a good mix for December deer. Ample food sources with oaks and fruit trees give them the forage they need to survive the long winter. Find some of those mature oak stands and set up near the adjacent fields.

Oswego County consistently produces good numbers of deer, and this year's harvest should be on a par with years past. Take time to scout the area and plan on spending a few days in the field. There are deer there -- it's just going to take you some time to find their patterns.

Access to Happy Valley WMA is via I-81 route north from Syracuse to Exit 33. Turn right off the exit and continue on Route 104, where Happy Valley WMA signs are posted.

A map-brochure on the WMA is available from the DEC's Region 7 office in Cortland at (607) 753-3095.

For information on accommodations and additional sources, contact the Oswego County Tourism office at (315) 349-8322

BEAR SPRING MOUNTAIN WMA

Located in Delaware County, the Bear Mountain WMA is a hunter's paradise for the spring turkey opener.

At a little over 7,100 acres, Bear Spring WMA is about five miles southeast of Walton off Route 206. The area lies near East and West Trout Brook roads. Plenty of pull-off areas allow hunters to get out and explore.

You'll find the WMA off route 206, just a few miles north of the town of Walton. This area is also heavily used by non-hunters, so be on the lookout for them.

Mature hardwoods surrounded by crop fields and meadows make for the perfect whitetail habitat.

A good map of the WMA can be obtained from the New York DEC's Region 4 office in Stamford at (607) 652-7367. Get yours prior to the season. Look for a good location that's far enough away from hiking trails and wait for the action to begin.

For information on hunting and accommodations, call the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-642-4443.

CONNECTICUT HILL WMA

Located in Tompkins and Schuyler counties, Connecticut Hill WMA boasts a healthy 12,000 acres -- more than enough room for hunters to harvest a nice whitetail effectively.

Connecticut Hill WMA has massive plots of mature hardwoods, ample fruit and nut shrubs and open pastures, making for the almost perfect landscape that's on every hunter's wish list.

Find it by driving south out of Ithaca on Route 13, which runs along its most southerly corner. From Route 13, hunters can probe the interior of the WMA by turning right onto Carter Creek or Connecticut Hill roads.

There are also several access roads on the west side of the management area off state Route 6 (Cayutaville Road).

The area is massive, so you're advised to spend some time scouting and plot

ting out a strategy. Heading into the woods without a plan seldom leads to carrying out a deer.

The DEC office in Cortland can grant you the permit to camp here, as well as a free map of the various areas. Call (607) 753-3095 to get both.

For more information, contact the Schuyler County Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-607-4552.

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