Long Island Whitetails

One of the top producers of trophy bucks in the Empire State, Long Island offers some excellent hunting on public land into January. Here's how you can get in on the action this month. (December 2009)

It may be hard to believe considering the situation today, but at the turn of the 20th century, there were virtually no deer on New York's Long Island. Decades later, however, following a successful reintroduction effort, deer began to flourish. The deer population on Long Island has been estimated at as many as 20,000 animals, and in parts of the eastern half of Suffolk County, whitetail densities may be 100 per square mile, one of the highest in New York.

WHY HUNT LONG ISLAND?

With such impressive deer numbers it would appear that Long Island and Suffolk County in particular should provide some good hunting opportunities. Truth be told: It does!

In 2006, for example, hunters killed 2,357 deer in the county, and 850 of those were bucks. In 2007, the harvest and buck totals dropped slightly to 2,159 and 781, respectively, but in 2008, the harvest increased to 2,528 with 805 bucks contributing to the total.

While other counties produce more deer each year and more bucks overall, few have such a high buck-to-total harvest ratio, and only a handful of counties consistently produce as many trophy bucks.

Between 1996 and 2002, Long Island deer hunters put 57 bucks in the various record books, and more have been added since then. One of the largest was a 22-point monster taken in 2006 that netted 196 2/8 Boone and Crockett points! The bottom line is Long Island produces its share of bucks and is one of the top counties in the state to bag a trophy specimen.

The island is a great spot for bowhunters. In 2001, the bowhunting season on the island was expanded from two months to three, making it the longest archery deer season in the state. Hunters are allowed to obtain unlimited special permits to kill does.

It is estimated that about 60 percent of the deer in Suffolk County are killed by archers. The archery season opens Oct. 1 and runs through Dec. 31.

The firearms season starts the first Monday after the first Saturday in January and ends the last weekday in January. There is no firearms hunting on weekends. Shotguns using a single ball or slug and muzzleloaders with a minimum bore or .44-caliber firing a single projectile may be used.

Shotgun barrels may be rifled and telescopic sights are legal.

PUBLIC -LAND OPTIONS

If there is a downside to deer hunting on Long Island it is the permit process required to hunt public lands, and then finding access to places to hunt. The island is obviously one of the most developed areas in New York, so hunting is tightly controlled.

Access permits along with a hunting license are required to hunt all lands managed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. On the Rocky Point Natural Resources Management Area and Otis G. Pike Preserve, hunters must have a daily access permit during at least part of the season.

Daily access permits are also required on all DEC-managed lands during the January firearms season. All DEC-managed lands are also closed to hunting on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Suffolk County allows hunting on certain county parks, but some county areas are open to residents only.

Suffolk County has about 20,000 acres of public land open to hunting, and for those who go through the permit process, the rewards are well worth the effort. Lands open to public hunting would include state-managed lands, including cooperatives and some county parks.

WHERE TO FIND THEM

Here is a sampling of DEC lands open to deer hunting:

On Barcelona Neck east of Sag Harbor, hunters will find 500 acres of coastal pine barrens. To get to the area, take Route 27 to East Hampton and then Route 114 north for four miles. The hunting area is on the right.

South of Riverhead, the David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve offers 2,700 acres of mixed oak and pine. To reach the area, take Interstate Route 495 to Exit 71 and then Route 24 east to the Riverhead traffic circle. The property is approximately one mile south of the circle on county Route 104.

On the eastern tip of Long Island, the East Hampton Cooperative Area covers 4,000 acres of coastal and pine barrens that include Napeaque, Hither Hills and Montauk state parks and some country and town land.

There are special season dates for hunting this area. Hunters should contact the Bureau of Wildlife in Stony Brook for details by telephoning (631) 444-0310.

Access to these properties is along Route 27 east of Amagansett in East Hampton.

The Otis Pike Preserve includes approximately 5,400 acres of mixed oak, pine barrens and some open habitat. The Peconic River also flows through the property and there are several small ponds.

To access the area, take I-495 to Exit 69 two miles north of Schultz Road. From the Eastport area, take I-495 to Exit 70, and then go four miles south to county Route 51 east.

The property is on the north side of county Route 51.

The Rocky Point Natural Resources Area features 5,700 acres of oak and pine forest south of Rocky Point. Hunters will also find some open fields.

To reach the property, take I-495 to Exit 66, and then travel north on county Route 101 to county Route 21. Go north on county Route 21 approximately six miles to a parking lot on the west side of the road.

The Westhampton Management Area offers 420 acres of dwarf pine and scrub oak habitat between the Suffolk County Airport and the Sunrise Highway. To reach the area, take Route 27 to Exit 63 South. Travel 1.5 miles and turn left onto Stewart Avenue.

The West Tiana Cooperative Hunting Area allows hunting on 275 acres under an agreement between the Suffolk Parks Department and the DEC in Hampton Bays. A parking area is on the west side of Bellows Road south of the Sunset Highway.

Other DEC-managed lands open to hunting include Timber Point, Bellmont Bay, Fireplace Neck, Haven's Point and Long Beach Bay.

Hunters should also keep in mind that many of Suffolk County's public parks are open to hunting. For a list of parks open to hunting and more infor

mation, hunters should contact the Suffolk County Department of Parks in West Sayville at (631) 854-4949.

Archery and shotgun deer hunting are allowed on the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley. Hunters must apply for special permits that are allocated by lottery. The refuge covers 2,500 acres and features oak and pine forestlands and grasslands bisected by the Carmens River.

For more information on the application process and rules and regulations, hunters should telephone the refuge headquarters at (631) 286-0485.

GETTING IN ON THE HUNT

Keep in mind all hunting on DEC lands in Suffolk County is by some kind of access permit. Daily access permits are required at Rocky Point and the Otis Pike preserves between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. Daily access permits are also required to hunt all DEC-managed lands during the January firearms season.

Before November and after Dec. 31, except during the January firearms season, hunting at Rocky Point and parts of the Otis Pike Preserve is by seasonal access permit. On all other DEC-managed lands, hunting is by seasonal access permit.

Access permits are free and may be obtained in person at the DEC's Sporting License Office in Stony Brook or by calling (631) 444-0273. An application will be mailed to you.

Permits may also be obtained at the Ridge Creek Check Station from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 and during the January firearms season.

The check station is north of Route 25 on Randall Road in Ridge. Applications may also be downloaded on the DEC's Web site.

To make a reservation, hunters should call the Rocky Ridge Check Station at (631) 924-3156 between noon and 2 p.m. the day before they plan to hunt, Sunday through Thursday only.

Hunters are allowed to make a maximum of seven reservations in November and six reservations in December.

For more information and details, check with officials at the Rock Ridge facility.

For more information on the deer-hunting opportunities on Long Island, contact the DEC's Region 1 office at (631) 444-0310.

A helpful brochure, Public Hunting Opportunities on NY DEC-Managed Lands, may also be viewed online.

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