'Let young bucks go, watch them grow'
So goes the catchphrase of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation as we approach the Southern Zone regular big game season opener Saturday. While not a requirement, DEC encourages experienced hunters to pass up the smaller bucks and let them continue to grow to a bigger size. This voluntary program showed much improvement again last year when, for the first time, nearly 60% (58.8%) of bucks taken were 2.5 years or older – setting a record in total number of older deer (66,697) and the greatest percentage of older bucks in the harvest. In 2017, the number was 53.3% (57,494).
Generally, a 1 1/2-year-old buck will have 20% less weight and 50% less antler mass than a 2 1/2-year-old deer. If you want to see bigger bucks, you need to let them grow a bit older. The program seems to be working. The 2018 numbers are up from 40% a decade ago, and 30% in the 1990s. Excluding units with mandatory antler restrictions, 54.5% of the adult bucks harvested were older bucks, still the greatest percentage on record.
Three-F Club Winter Skeet League starts Nov. 20
If you’re looking to have some challenging winter fun in the snow and wind, consider joining the Fin-Feather-Fur Conservation Society – the Three-F Club – for its Winter Skeet League. The shooting will begin Nov. 20. It’s a handicap league open to members and nonmembers. Sign up a team or sign up as an individual and a team will be assigned to you. Your first six scores for the league must be shot by Jan. 5, and you can shoot ahead as far as you want.
Shooting takes place Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Cost is $7 per week, which includes targets, prizes and banquet money. If you are interested, stop down to the club located at 904 Swann Road, Lewiston. You also can call league coordinators Dave Alexander at 258-0261 or Mark Fasso at 754-7972.
Last call for LOTSA Salmon School
The Lake Ontario Trout and Salmon Association has announced that there are less than 20 seats remaining in the group’s popular Salmon School, to be held Jan. 18 as part of the 7th Annual Greater Niagara Fishing and Outdoor Expo, which runs Jan. 17-19 at the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls. The school is limited to 170 seats, offering a full day of intense salmon fishing instruction.
Speakers at the Salmon School will once again include Capt. Pete Alex of Vision Quest Sportfishing, Capt. Matt Yablonsky of Wet Net Sportfishing and Capt. Andy Bliss with Cold Steel Sportfishing. Also added to the agenda are Lance Valentine with Walleye 101/Teachin’ Fishin’ and Karl Chmilnitzky, a highly regarded Canadian angler. Signing up for the Salmon School also gives you a three-day pass for the show, entrance into a special meet and greet with the captains Friday night and a special grab bag of fishing-related items. For more information or to register, visit www.lotsa1.org.
Orleans County rifle hunting now permanent
As the regular big game firearms season for the Southern Zone opens, take note that the use of a rifle in Orleans County was made permanent last month when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that made it a legal hunting implement. Also included in the law were portions of Broome County. The only counties that do not allow for rifle hunting are Niagara, Erie, Monroe, Onondaga, Tompkins and several counties around the New York City area.
Just a reminder to that it’s always important to exercise gun safety when afield. Hunters are encouraged to use fluorescent orange (or pink) even though it’s not mandatory unless you are a junior hunter with a mentor. Statistics show that it will make you seven times safer by wearing this highly visible material. Juniors ages 14 and 15 years old (and their mentors) are required to wear a shirt, jacket or vest with at least 250 square inches of orange or pick or a hat with orange or pink that must be at least 50% solid. Always point your gun in a safe direction and treat every gun as if it were loaded. Identify your target and look beyond your target, too. Don’t take any unnecessary chances. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. Stay safe out there.
If you hunt out of a tree stand, an entirely different set of precautions are involved. Use a full body harness and climbing belt and stay connected from the time you leave the ground until the time you get down. Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm. Make sure you have checked the straps or chains prior to getting into the stand. Be sure to let family and friends know where you will be. Keep a cellphone where it’s easily accessible to you should a problem arise.