The last muzzleload volleys went off Tuesday before sunset, ending the final legal open deer season in New York State.
Now, except for hunts on licensed preserves, Western New York deer hunters will have to travel out of state to put venison in the freezer.
Pennsyllvania holds a late archery season starting Monday and continuing until Jan. 15. Non-resident muzzleload license sales ended Aug. 30 in that state. Ohio's late crossbow season goes until Jan. 30.
Exact deer harvest figures for Western New York will be available sometime in late January, says Department of Enironmental Conservation senior wildlife biologist Jim Snider. First-week conditions make overall harvest estimates difficult.
Snider saw record numbers of deer brought into the Springville and Holland check stations. Later, DEC staff checked area processors. "This year's count is up about 600 deer over the Region 9 take last year," Snider said.
He also noted that mail-in report cards at Delmar are up statewide. The first week's harvest was good but, typically, it slows during the second week of the open shotgun season. "A lack of snow impacts our harvest every season, expecially after the first week of hunting."
Hunters this year did not see much snowfall, except for higher elevations in the southern Tier, until after the shotgun season ended.
Late muzzleloaders took advantage of hunting on snow cover until the last day of the season. This year, muzzleloaders had the option of taking either bucks or does during the late season. That distinctive mussle blast was herd more often in several Western New York deer hunting areas this season, during the shotgun season and during the either-self late season.
Stanley Olejniczak Jr. of Buffalo waited until 11 a.m. on the last Sunday of shotgun season to bring down a big, eight-point white-tailed buck. Hunting on his property at Middlebury in Wyoming County he took a trophy-class deer, which carries a slightly more hefty rack than his dad, Stanley, Sr., got the previous year.
Both deer were taken to Bob Thuman Taxidermy for mounting. Thuman confirmed the Stanley Jr. buck had greater dimensions. "In fact, this deer holds the biggest mass of antler brought in this year" he said, "including all the deer I've seen with more points." The outside spread is 22 1/4 inches and bases measure more than a 7-inch circumference, Thuman estimates the deer's age at 5 1/2 years and a Boone & Crockett score somewhere in the 130-140 range. Official scoring takes place 60 days after the deer has been harvested.
Hide prices are down but raccoon numbers have been up this season, says Randy Roberts of Cambria, expert `coon dog handler.
"I spent much of my time deer hunting, but the early-fall 'coon hunts went well," he said. Now that they are well past their pre-winter feed, raccoons go into a kind of semi hibernation. "You have to look for warm weather nights, something in the 30-degree range, and it takes two warm nights to get them to move," Roberts said.
They hold close to the "Den Trees" as the season chills. Breeding season, which normally starts in mid-January, puts out good scents for the dogs to track.
"This is a good time to take out young dogs to teach them how to track. The scent is strong and tracks are long," he says. "With all those scents in the air and males working den trees, it's nice to listen to the hounds ` music'".
Raccoon season goes until Feb. 13 with no big limits imposed.