Big game season officially closes on Dec. 19 in the Southern Zone of New York (with a few exceptions). We are currently in the final phase, which includes late archery, muzzleloader and crossbow. Early reports are showing that through Dec. 3, harvest estimates are up some 18 percent from last year in the Northern Zone and 14 percent in the Southern Zone.
However, due to the fact that more than half of successful hunters failed to comply with environmental law by not reporting their deer last year, DEC officials don’t know if it’s more of hunter compliance in reporting rules, an increase in the harvest or a combination of both. Through three weekends of the regular season, early estimates are showing a take of nearly 70,000 deer and 814 black bear. Last year those numbers were 61,000 and 775 respectively. Once again, it’s important to emphasize safety when afield or up in a tree stand. Hunting hours are from sunrise to sunset.
Speaking of big game, the state will be increasing the fine amounts for deer infractions for violations both in season and out. An amendment was made recently to the state’s Environmental Conservation Law that was signed by Gov. Cuomo stiffening the fines for deer and bear poaching. It is hoped that this will be more of a deterrent from breaking the law. Starting in 2018, killing a deer or bear out of season will have a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $3,000. It can also include up to one year of prison. In addition, the fines for each animal killed will at least $500 each and not more than $1,000 each.
For in-season poaching, the minimum fine for the act will be a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $2,000 or up to one year in prison. The fines per animal were also increased to not less than $500 and not more than $1,000 for each deer. There are also provisions for increasing penalties for repeat offenders. For example, if you are found guilty within five years of a violation the minimum fine will be $750 and the maximum will be $2,000 for the first deer and the same fees for every deer following the first.