The most popular season of the year is about to begin for local hunters.

Big game firearm season in New York’s Southern Zone, which includes Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties, will begin Saturday.

This year, the men, women and teens heading out to our local woods and fields in search of a deer or bear will see some changes to rules regulating their hunt.

The most important, in our view, is the requirement for all big-game hunters to wear blaze orange or pink. Many hunters don’t like to wear the colorful clothing because they feel they will be spotted by their prey. Deer and bears can’t distinguish between a blaze orange camo pattern and a traditional green and brown one, but other hunters can. According to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, hunters who wear blaze colors are seven times less likely to be shot than hunters who don’t.

Hunters will also have a longer time each day to hunt, as the hours have been extended to 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset.

Regulated hunting seasons are important in controlling the wildlife population.

Overpopulation increases the likelihood of wildlife-vehicle crashes, and adversely impacts vegetation on farms and in yards.

We encourage hunters to introduce non-hunters to the sport — especially younger people. The expansion of the firearm season to supervised 12- and 13-year-olds could help increase the interest in hunting in future generations. If we don’t get younger hunters involved, the number of active hunters will continue to drop, and overpopulation could become a major problem. 

If we have fewer hunters, it may also mean a hit to our economy. Each year, more than 500,000 deer hunters contribute nearly $1.5 billion to the state’s economy through hunting-related expenses, and through license purchases and federal excise taxes, hunters generate more than $35 million to support management activities of the state DEC, according to the department’s website.

Out-of-area hunters add to our economy by paying taxes on “second home” hunting camps and staying in our hotels and motels. They also shop in local stores and visit local eating establishments.

While many local hunters will eat the meat they harvest, many also donate their extra meat (and more) to local food banks through the Venison Donation Program of Delaware and Otsego Counties and the Venison Donation Coalition.

For the safety of the meat and the environment, the DEC encourages the use of non-lead ammunition.

Most importantly, we want our hunters to be safe. 

Know the target (and what’s beyond it). Make sure what is in the sights is a legal bear or deer and not another hunter (if hunters wear blaze colors, they should be easy to spot). 

Don’t carry a loaded firearm. Once it is loaded, don’t touch the trigger until ready to shoot.

Those who use tree stands should use a climbing belt and safety harness, and should never climb in or out of the stand with a loaded gun.

Those who want to show off their trophy may submit a photo of it via email to creativeservices@thedailystar.com, mail it to The Daily Star, Attention: Game Photos, 102 Chestnut St. Oneonta NY 13820, or upload it via our Facebook page, along with the hunter’s name (and name of all of the people in the photo), address and phone number, as well details of harvest. The photo and hunt details will be included in our 12th annual game photo contest, in conjunction with Losie’s Gun Shop.

We wish all of our hunters the best of luck.

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