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.