The Eurasian boar bill Gov. Cuomo signed on October 22 to protect the environment will have a stunning impact on hunting preserve operators and average-Joe hunters.
“We knew it was going to come eventually,” said Pete Smith at Creekside Outdoors in Forestville of a ban on the possession, sale and hunting of wild boars.
The legislators’ vote was not close; only six voted in opposition to the bill that the Governor inked shortly after passage in the Assembly and Senate.
Potential dangers of devastation seen in Texas, Georgia and other Southern states prompted the legislative action. Add pressures from anti-hunting factions and even hunters favoring only fair-chase hunts and the so-called “canned hunts” wild-boar options offered at hunting preserves such as Creekside were fated to fall.
Fears of boars escaping from preserves and spreading chronic wasting disease (CWD) and other wild-animal diseases plus damages done to wild lands and forests as well as to wildlife and domestic livestock sealed the deal.
The only compensation the bill offers to preserve operators such as Pete and Tania Smith and the 12 other boar-hunt facilities in New York State is an extension of “continued possession of these animals” through August 31, 2015.
The boar bill took effect immediately upon the governor’s signing with “none” cited as “Budget Implications” and as “Local Impact.”
For the Smiths, the local impact is substantial and the state did not budget any funds to compensate hunting preserve businesses that will suffer major losses.
When the bill was first signed, Smith said that he would have to go out of business. Now he ponders continuing the various businesses at Creekside Outdoors while returning to work as a mason.
“Tania knows and can handle the archery and firearms operation,” he said of the many options offered at their 300-acre former dairy farm that has become a multifaceted outdoors site at 10111 Creek Road in Forestville.
As for CWD concerns in deer, caution and watchful attention to it and maintenance of game animals have been their way of working since starting hunts and scent collections in 1996. “We have done CWD tests at Creekside since 2002. Ag and Markets takes tests of brain stems. Brain samples are taken from all deer that die at this preserve,” he said.
As for wild boar security, he said, “We have never had boars escape yet we will have to take the loss.” The bill cited growing evidence of damage in Tioga, Delaware, Clinton, Cortland and Onondaga Counties, areas in which wild boars have escaped from preserves.
Recovery of escaped boars can be difficult and expensive. A Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture effort to remove 35 boars that escaped in Clinton County cost about $2,600 for each boar removed.
For the average hunter, a wild boar offers the most affordable big-game preserve hunt. Smith calls his boar hunts “a poor man’s grizzly bear hunt.”
A family can go on a boar hunt for less than $1,000 including meat processing, have any member of that family shoot a boar and return home with a trophy head, hide and hooves (if desired), processed good-tasting meat and the memories of an enjoyable outing.
Smith stressed that these kinds of hunts, while not an arduous fair-chase effort, provide a basic way to introduce youths and new hunters to hunting.
With the loss of boar hunts, Smith said that the next cheapest hunts at Creekside will be Corsican rams then sika Deer, fallow deer, and finally elk and Whitetail.
Along with the loss of newer, younger hunters, a big part of Creekside’s business is the meat processing and taxidermy mounts. But the archery, firearms, taxidermy and deer scents operations will continue.
The Killbuck Scents business began with the hunting-preserve start in 1996. The freshly collected scents were named for Pete’s granddad who shot his first buck at Killbuck, N.Y., in 1938, the first year a deer season was established in this part of the state.
For details on hunts, deer scents and other services at Creekside, call (888) 965-2146 or go to creeksideoutdoors.com.
Added to the boar ban, the DEC has just issued emergency measures to bar CWD from entering New York State.
Beginning November 16 and continuing to August 1, 2018 an import ban has been placed on Rocky Mountain elk, red deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, whitetail deer, sika deer and moose. New York and 20 other states have imposed bans on importing live deer.
This ban will not affect game species already kept at hunting preserves but operators will have to obtain stock from certified breeders within the state and preserve-hunt costs will probably increase.
“Many of my suppliers were closer in Pennsylvania than down state,” Smith said of whitetail deer-stock purchases.
CWD has been discovered at three preserves in Pennsylvania and in wild areas of western Maryland and southeast Pennsylvania. CWD is 100 percent fatal to deer that have contracted the disease.
With all the ecological and health gloom attending these bans and restrictions, hunters can take heart from a recent University of Illinois study that showed culling diseased animals has had minimal to no effect on deer-herd numbers.
A study, begun in 2001 in areas of northern Illinois where CWD occurred, examines about 7,000 deer removed annually to identify affected animals.
Wildlife epidemiologist Nohra Mateus-Pinilla wrote, “We found that hunter harvest had increased, and the prevalence of CWD has been maintained at low levels for 10 years in Illinois.”
Only two counties reported slight drops in deer populations throughout northern Illinois during these culls. Wildlife officials believe removing potentially dangerous deer from the herd will be beneficial in the long run. In general, during the past 12 years hunters in northern Illinois have seen minimal declines in deer numbers.
Wild boars have yet to be found in the Western New York wilds and no confirmed cases of CWD have been opened this past year. Archery hunters have tagged some trophy whitetails with impressive antler masses as the mating-season rut begins to stir does and bucks of breeding age.
One confirmed 13-pointer at Lewiston in Niagara County and an unconfirmed 14 pointer in Genesee County add to the talk and hype to get out with the bow or get set with the gun for the November 16 big-game firearms season opener.
Experts put the rut peak at sometime during the first and second weeks of November. Many a bow hunter, even those who has yet to draw a string, offer reports of seeing bucks chasing does for more than a week.
Getting to that hunting stand before sunrise will probably be a bit easier in this season opener. The full moon phase will peak that weekend.
Pennsylvania’s statewide rifle season opens a week later.