With most of the small game hunting getting underway yesterday, Oct. 1, the opening day in our Southern Zone, we're liable to hear the same old laments from many hunters – fewer places to hunt, poor habitat, and a scarcity of game such as grouse. This will especially be the case with many who hunt on public land such as state forests.
With the exception of several state forests where cutting and thinning of the aging trees have occurred in small areas, hunting for small game has basically become little more than a walk in the woods for most hunters, as small game species such as grouse, rabbit and, later in the season, varying hare that require low-growth cover, are something of a rarity in state forests these days.
Obviously the answer is combining forestry management with wildlife management, but that has been an uphill battle in recent years, for several reasons. Most quoted is a lack of funding and manpower in those divisions of the DEC, but another has been the general public's resistance to having any of the adult trees cut down. But there should be common ground for both sides in this, and there just may be hope for a compromise on the horizon, based on the results of recent meetings with stake-holders and the DEC.
During the recent annual conference and meetings of the NYS Conservation Council and its many member organizations, DEC commissioner Pete Grannis and Director of DEC's Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Pat Reixinger apparently got an earful from member attendees, most of which were constructive suggestions as to how to "fix" their ailing agency and gain the support of the state's sportsmen and women as well as the general resource-using public.