This Saturday is opening day for the regular firearms season for white-tailed deer here in the Southern Zone. It is a day that many hunters have looked forward to since the season ended last year.
While there is a lot of hype that goes into opening day (and all of deer season for that matter), hunters should remember the basics that they were taught in Hunter Education to keep the woods a safe place for hunters.
Practicing safe firearm handling is the best way to prevent hunting related shootings. Remember to identify your target and what is beyond your target before shooting. Wearing blaze orange can help hunters be identified from a distance as a hunter and not a deer.
While it is suggested that deer hunters wear blaze orange, it is not required in New York. If you see another hunter, do not wave or make motion at them, speak in a loud, clear voice to let them know that you are there. Using a deer decoy is not recommended unless you are on private property and are confident that no one else will be hunting.
If you hunt on public land, such as state forests, be respectful of other hunters and members of the general public who may be using the area also.
Hikers and horseback riders do not keep track of when hunting seasons start so there is a chance that you could encounter people from either of these groups. Be polite and professional if you interact with them, consider suggesting that they should wear blaze orange until Christmas if they are going to be on public land. Remember that they have just as much right to be there as you do.
Hunting on private land can be more advantageous because there usually is less hunting pressure. Talk to the landowner and know who all has permission to hunt on their property.
You could even ask for their contact information if the landowner has it, then you can coordinate with them who is going to be where on the property, so you do not crowd each other. That way if you do encounter another hunter, you can ask them what their name is and if they are not supposed to be there you can contact the landowner. Only tell people to leave the property if the landowner has told you that you can do so (or if you are the landowner!).
My Opening Weekend Prediction-
I write this as the snow is falling on Tuesday night. If the snow manages to stay on the ground until Saturday, opening day should have a fair number of harvests.
However, the cold overnight temperatures could make some hunters leave the woods earlier than normal in the mornings. Deer will need to eat to increase their calorie intake to match fighting the cold so they should head to feeding areas earlier in the afternoons and stay there longer in the mornings.
Breeding has been going on for a couple of weeks so the number of unbred does is dwindling, so be ready to intercept a buck on the prowl for the last does that haven’t been bred yet. This could be at anytime of day so try to stay in the woods as much as possible.
The last few years, I have carried a thermos of hot chocolate (I’m not a coffee drinker) with me on really cold days. A cup of a hot beverage goes a lot farther than you might think in keeping you in the stand longer. Handwarmers and footwarmers are also useful but be careful not to overdo it to the point that you get sweaty because you will very cold as the sweat starts to evaporate off you.