Archery season for white-tailed deer opens Oct. 1 on Long Island. At local bow shops and archery ranges anticipation is running high as hunters squeeze in last-minute equipment tuneups, practice shooting and compare notes.

That's all necessary and fun but also important is giving the regulations a serious once-over before heading afield. There have been some changes in the rules across the state this year, at least one of which directly impacts Suffolk County hunters. In an effort to reduce the deer herd on Long Island, the first 15 days of the archery season, will have an "antlerless deer only" provision in effect."

In short, not enough does are being harvested to sufficiently reduce the whitetail population in WMU 1C (Suffolk County). The changes, therefore, are designed to encourage hunters to play a bigger role in culling the herd. The new regulations should help as long as hunters fully participate and take to the woods during the periods when bucks are off limits.

If each archer took an extra doe or two during the season, the changes could bring dramatic results. Many hunters, however, key solely on bucks, an attitude that needs to change. Having too many deer is a problem that results in overgrazing of woodlands, destruction of shrubs and house plantings, crop damage on farms, spread of disease within the herd, deer/automobile collisions and an increase in tick borne illness, among other things. Hunters taking an extra doe or two could have a positive impact on these problems.

There are other rule changes to note. In some other deer management units, doe permit numbers have been reduced. You can find more information on rule changes for the upcoming season on the DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/hunting.html.

If you do get out and take an extra doe, the question of what to do with the additional meat may be of concern. If your harvest proves more than you can store, consider giving your extra prize to the Venison Donation Coalition. Fish & Wildlife Unlimited Taxidermy in Oakdale (631-244-7516) is the primary drop-off point. They'll process your deer into chop meat (no charge to you) for pickup and distribution to those in need by Long Island Cares.

Donating a deer might not sound that significant, but this program is truly a blessing for some people. Each year it serves 300,000 venison meals in New York State alone -- an average of 37.58 tons of venison donated, processed and distributed. Last year, Fish & Wildlife Unlimited Taxidermy processed more than 15,000 pounds of venison chop meat for the program.

Hunters who donate one or two of their deer get to triple-dip in the goodness department. They enjoy the thrill of the hunt, cull the herd and feed the hungry.

Tree stand safety

Hunting from a tree stand is one of the most successful means of taking whitetails. It also accounts for a disproportionate number of serious hunter injuries.

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According to the DEC, current research indicates 82 percent of tree stand incidents involved hunters that were not using any type of body harness. Be smart and stay safe by always using a full body safety harness going up, while on stand and while descending from your perch.

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