An important, long-awaited season is about to begin.

No, not the holiday season. (That began in August, didn’t it? Well, many stores seem to think so.)

We are talking about the big game firearm season in New York’s Southern Zone, which includes Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Schoharie counties.

Starting Saturday, hunters will head out to the local woods and fields, rifles and shotguns in hand looking for a nice-sized deer (for many a buck with a wall-mount-worthy rack) or bear.

This isn’t the start of hunting season—  many have already started filling their freezers during the youth hunt and bow season. But firearm season is the post popular.

Each year, the state Department of Environmental Conservation issues a certain number of bear, buck and doe tags in each Wildlife Management Area. Certain restrictions may also be issued in some areas, such as the number of antler points a buck must have to be legally harvested.

That is done to control the wildlife population, and to help make that population healthier.

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. If we don’t get younger hunters involved, the number of active hunters will continue to drop, and overpopulation could become a major problem.

And 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 $35 million to support management activities of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, 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 (and will give business to local taxidermy shops for the trophy-worthy beasts), 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 also encourages the use of non-lead ammunition.

Mostly, we want our hunters to be safe.

Wear noticeable clothing (blaze orange or pink is recommended). Blaze camo patterns hide hunters from the animals, but not other hunters. Hunters who wear blaze orange are seven times less likely to be shot, according to the DEC.

Know the target (and what’s beyond it). Make sure what is in the sights is a bear or deer and not another hunter (see the blaze camo comment above). Also make sure what is in the sights is a legal take.

Don’t carry a loaded firearm, and 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. Also never climb in or out of the stand with a loaded gun.

And in the age of coronavirus, we also ask hunters to practice safe social distancing and hand hygiene, and wear masks when around others. For those traveling from outside the area, we hope they have taken proper precautions to ensure they aren’t bringing the virus with them.

Those who want to show off their trophy may submit a photo of it to creativeservices@thedailystar.com, along with their name (and name of all of the people in the photo), address and phone number, as well details of harvest. The photo will be included in our 11th annual game photo contest, in conjunction with Losie’s Gun Shop. 

We wish all of our hunters the best of luck.

Trending Video

Recommended for you