Long Island hunters were greeted to the opening of archery season Wednesday with a warm and dreary morning. Though the weather may have tempered the efforts of local sportsmen, it was in stark contrast to some really bright changes in local hunting opportunities implemented recently by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Suffolk County Parks and several East End towns.
In a move that opens significant new properties for bow hunting in Suffolk County, NYS recently change the set-back shooting distance of 500 feet from an occupied dwelling to 150 feet. The new rule applies to bow hunters only.
"This opens and expands many properties for archery hunting that previously served as de facto deer sanctuaries," said Robert Marsh, Region 1 natural resource supervisor for the DEC. "On heavily pressured state lands, for example, deer often move right to the edges of bordering backyards to avoid hunters. This should reduce such escape routes."
"It's vital hunters use discretion with this new flexibility," DEC Region 1 spokesperson Bill Fonda said. "We don't want landowners to be made uncomfortable. Just because you can legally get close to a property line doesn't mean it's the appropriate move. This is a very positive change for bow- hunting access and hunters need to show good judgment to avoid losing it in the future."
Put simply, discretion is the key. No matter what the legal set-back, hunters are always required to obey all "Posted" and "No Trespassing" signs.
Also increasing access this year is the designation of several Suffolk County parcels, along with additional NYS and town properties, as legal hunting areas. The most notable of these is Brookhaven State Park.
"This is part of a cooperative hunting area that includes property on the east side of William Floyd Parkway and north of Route 25," said DEC Region 1 deer biologist Josh Stiller. "There are plenty of deer in these woods and, with 1,550 huntable acres, we've allowed for 15 designated hunting spots."
Brookhaven State Park opens for archery season Nov. 1. Until the DEC finds the time and staff to change the set-back postings, hunters should obey current signs.
"We're working with several Suffolk County municipalities, plus New York State parks, to open even more lands for hunting," Marsh said. Suffolk County recently approved archery only areas in the towns of Southold, Riverhead and Brookhaven.
Some wetland areas have also opened at Havens Point in Moriches and Ludlow Creek in Brookhaven. For information on hunting Suffolk County Parklands, visit suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/parks/recreationalactivities/hunting. For info on town properties, check with local town halls.
Another change on the whitetail front involves bonus deer management permits. These tags are now all "antlerless only," and hunters no longer have to bring the head of the deer to a DEC check station for a replacement tag. The check station is still open for those who want to have a deer checked.
"Antlerless-only tags," explained Stiller, "are a better tool than 'either sex' tags for helping reduce the deer herd on Long Island."
Info on Bonus Deer Management permits can be found at dec.ny.gov/outdoor/10001.html