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The history of hunting in the Adirondacks

Notes from the North Woods

At first glance, the only evidence it was a buck were some big tines sticking out of the tall grass.

At first glance, the only evidence it was a buck were some big tines sticking out of the tall grass. Photo by Joe Hackett.

In the Adirondacks, and elsewhere, game seasons were established, and restocking efforts were initiated to restore beaver, black bear and to ensure the survival of a greatly diminished whitetail deer herd.

In 1926, hunters were required to purchase a hunting license, and the hunting season was reduced to just a month from October 16 until November 15. However, Adirondack hunters were still harvesting between seven and twelve thousand deer throughout the 1920’s and 30’s.

Due to ongoing conservations efforts, the Adirondack deer herd expanded and annual harvests topped out in 1954, when hunters took 10,192 bucks, which remains the annual record.

However, in 1969 three hard winters in seccession reduced the deer population by half when the animals couldn't forage beneath the deep snows. The decline occurred when much of the Forest Preserve had a lot of even-aged stands with little undergrowth, that were inhospitable to deer.

A sudden scarcity of whitetails was evident in 1968, when hunters harvested only 8,383 bucks in the Adirondacks, and by 1971, they managed a take of only 2,907 whitetails.

By the end of the '70's decade, the Department of Environmental Conservation estimated the Adirondack deer herd conisted of less than 30,000 animals due to a series of hard winters and the lack of suitable habitat.

Currently, wildlife biologists indicate the deer herd has rebounded quite well and estimates of current deer populations in a range between sixty and eighty thousand animals.

Like most deer hunters, I ask that at least one buck passes my way during the open season. Anything beyond that would be purely a bonus.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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