Deer take way down in the northern zone

The poor deer take in the northern zone last season is no longer a rumor.

While hunters harvested 222,800 deer statewide during the 2009 season - nearly the same as 2008 - the deer take in the northern zone was down nearly 20 percent, state officials said last week.

Even more telling was the buck take, which dropped from 20,726 in 2008 to 16,279 in 2009 - a drastic 27 percent reduction. The total deer take in the northern zone was 28,464 in 2009 compared to 33,938 in 2008.

Some local hunting clubs estimate the take was down by 40 percent or more, the worst season they've seen in decades, and the numbers seem to follow my prediction of the deer take being lower in region's hardest hit by the winters of 2007 and 2008.

Take, for example, Warren, Essex and Hamilton counties.

In 2007, hunters killed 1,192 bucks in Essex County, 964 in Hamilton County and 637 in Warren County. In 2008, that number rose to 1,244 bucks in Essex; 1,298 in Hamilton and 722 in Warren.

But, in 2009, the take dropped drastically to 873 in Essex, 430 in Warren and just 510 in Hamilton - more than a 50 percent decline.

All this means that if you tagged a buck last year, consider yourself in fortunate company.

Some hunters have criticized the state's policy against feeding deer saying it contributes to the mortality rate - especially during severe winters.

But, wildlife officials say deer populations tend to be cyclical, and the herd is sure to rebound, especially after the mild conditions experienced this winter.

The DEC also noted a motivating factor behind the feeding ban was to stop the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, which was first detected in New York in 2005. The spread of CWD has, at least for now, been held in check. More than 30,000 deer have been tested since 2005, without one positive case of CWD found.

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