The poor deer take in the northern zone last season is no longer a rumor.
While hunters harvested 222,800 deer statewide during the 2009 season - nearly the same as 2008 - the deer take in the northern zone was down nearly 20 percent, state officials said last week.
Even more telling was the buck take, which dropped from 20,726 in 2008 to 16,279 in 2009 - a drastic 27 percent reduction. The total deer take in the northern zone was 28,464 in 2009 compared to 33,938 in 2008.
Some local hunting clubs estimate the take was down by 40 percent or more, the worst season they've seen in decades, and the numbers seem to follow my prediction of the deer take being lower in region's hardest hit by the winters of 2007 and 2008.
Take, for example, Warren, Essex and Hamilton counties.
In 2007, hunters killed 1,192 bucks in Essex County, 964 in Hamilton County and 637 in Warren County. In 2008, that number rose to 1,244 bucks in Essex; 1,298 in Hamilton and 722 in Warren.
But, in 2009, the take dropped drastically to 873 in Essex, 430 in Warren and just 510 in Hamilton - more than a 50 percent decline.
All this means that if you tagged a buck last year, consider yourself in fortunate company.
Some hunters have criticized the state's policy against feeding deer saying it contributes to the mortality rate - especially during severe winters.
But, wildlife officials say deer populations tend to be cyclical, and the herd is sure to rebound, especially after the mild conditions experienced this winter.
The DEC also noted a motivating factor behind the feeding ban was to stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, which was first detected in New York in 2005. The spread of CWD has, at least for now, been held in check. More than 30,000 deer have been tested since 2005, without one positive case of CWD found.
State officials generally refute the argument there were less deer last year and instead blame the unusually warm November experienced by northern zone hunters for the poor take here.
But, senior wildlife biologist Ed Reed said in some of Region 5, especially southern parts of the region, other factors contributed to the low deer take.
"The past two winters in southern Hamilton County, Warren County, and northern Washington, Saratoga, and Fulton counties were harsher than average and we did experience some winter kill," Reed said. "Also, in both of those winters, the deep snow came very early, well before the end of the regular season, causing some deer to begin moving toward wintering areas while hunting season was still open, making them more vulnerable to hunters."
Some hunters are aware of deer migration routes and concentrate their efforts on those routes when the snow comes early, Reed said.
"The increased buck harvest, as a result, will reduce the buck harvest the next year or two. For example, the 2008 buck harvest in Hamilton County was the highest since 1969, but, in 2009, it dropped off significantly."
The silver lining, Reed said, is the low harvest in 2009 coupled with this winter's mild weather should mean better deer numbers this fall.
For a complete breakdown of the statewide deer take, including calculations by county and town, go to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42232.html.
March 16 program aimed at improving balance
In the interest of getting older folks up and enjoying outdoor activities, Adirondack guide Elizabeth Lee of Westport and Willsboro-based physical therapist and personal trainer Brian Trzaskos will team up to present a unique program to the public on balance, aging and outdoor living.
The free event will be held this Tuesday, March 16, from 10:30 -11:30 a.m. at the Wallonsburgh Grange. People of all ages are encouraged to attend.
Lee said the program will offer specific ideas and incentives for adults to resume outdoor activities they enjoy. Paramount to that, however, is a sense of security, she said.
"I think a lot of older people have a real fear of falling and an uncertainty about safe terrain which keeps them from enjoying outdoor activities - especially during the winter months," Lee said.
At the March 16 program, Trzaskos will share in-depth knowledge of lifestyle patterns and physical dynamics which can improve balance and flexibility at all ages.
Lee said she hopes many residents will attend and, in turn, feel more comfortable with pursuing an active lifestyle at any age.
For more information, contact Lee at 962-4756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at email@example.com.