Have the Saturday deer openers lived up to expectations?

With the regular deer season opening this Saturday, it will mark the annual day that sees the highest number of hunters afield in the state. However, the amount will probably be less than it was five or ten years ago, when the openers fell on a Monday. Although the Department of Environmental Conservation’s 2005 decision to change the opener to a Saturday was based on the premise it would offer more hunters the opportunity to hunt, its impact has not been as dramatic as hoped for.

There’s no arguing that deer are the state’s primary drawing card for attracting hunters and selling hunting licenses, but several other factors have come into play that are at the root of the steadily decreasing number of hunters. After all, we have plenty of deer, as well as wild turkeys, the latter being another attractor for enticing hunters to keep buying licenses. But when the overall picture of hunting in New York is scrutinized, those two game species alone are proving to be insufficient to keep the state’s hunter numbers from declining.

The move to a Saturday opener was based on the theory that not only would working adults not have to take a day off from their jobs, but also that students age 16 and over who hunted would be out of school. I think what this theory failed to consider was that deer hunters in the state largely represent the last legion of avid hunters, regardless of their ages. As such, most were already more than willing to take vacation or time off to hunt. So the change from a Monday to a Saturday actually impacted a smaller percentage than anticipated.

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