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For Release: Thursday, November 4, 2021

DEC Announces Nov. 20 Start for Regular Firearms Season for Deer and Bear Hunting in New York's Southern Zone

New Opportunities and Responsibilities for Hunters

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that regular firearms season for deer and bear in the Southern Zone begins on Saturday, Nov. 20. DEC encourages hunters to review new safety regulations and changes this season that will enhance their hunting experience.

"New York's hunters are among the state's most important conservationists," Commissioner Seggos said. "Hunters help to balance deer and bear populations with local habitats and land uses while providing more than 11 million pounds of quality, locally grown, organic meat to sustain families. With more opportunities to venture afield this season, I encourage New Yorkers to continue practicing the key tenets of hunter safety for a safe and enjoyable time outdoors."

Regular Firearms Season for Deer and Bear in New York's Southern Zone runs from Nov. 20 through Dec. 12

The Southern Zone regular hunting season, which runs until Dec. 12, is New York's most popular hunting season, and approximately 85 percent of New York's 550,000 licensed hunters participate. Harvest during this season accounts for nearly 60 percent of the total statewide deer harvest and 30-60 percent of the statewide bear harvest.

Following the regular deer and bear seasons in the Southern Zone, late bowhunting and muzzleloading seasons run from Dec. 13 through Dec. 21, and again from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, the latter of which is an extension from past years. Hunters taking part in these special seasons must possess a hunting license and either bowhunting or muzzleloading privileges.

In the Northern Zone, the regular deer and bear hunting season opened Oct. 23 and closes on Dec. 5. The Northern Zone includes the Adirondacks, Tug Hill Plateau, Eastern Lake Ontario Plain, and the Champlain and St. Lawrence valleys. A late bowhunting and muzzleloading season for deer will be open in portions of the Northern Zone from Dec. 6 to Dec. 12.

New Opportunities for Youth Hunters, Longer Hunting Hours, and New Dress Code

New this year, 12- and 13-year-old hunters can hunt deer with a firearm when accompanied by a licensed, experienced adult in counties that 'opted in' to the pilot program. Established by the New York State Legislature through 2023, this pilot program applies only to upstate counties that choose to participate. The program does not apply to Westchester or Suffolk counties; Erie and Rockland counties did not opt in to participate. The remaining 52 upstate counties opted in. Also new, DEC extended the daily hunting hours to run from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset, allowing hunters to utilize the full daylight period. Hunters should check the sunrise and sunset times before hunting each day.

All hunters pursuing deer or bear with a firearm are now required to wear fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink clothing, either a hat, vest, or jacket visible in all directions. New York hunters have an excellent safety record, but this change will make hunting even safer.

Hunters are reminded to follow the basic rules of firearm safety:

  1. Point your gun in a safe direction;
  2. Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
  3. Be sure of your target and beyond; and
  4. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.

When hunting in tree stands, hunters are advised to use a safety harness and a climbing belt, as most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. Also, hunters should never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm.

Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow

By choosing to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow, New York hunters now see and take more older bucks than ever before. Older deer have larger antlers and yield more meat, vocalize more, and create more rubs and scrapes.

Hunters are Key Partners in Protecting New York Deer from Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) continues to spread in other states, and hunters can help to prevent CWD in New York, which is fatal to deer. If introduced, CWD could spread rapidly and be practically impossible to eliminate once established. Hunters can help protect New York's deer herd from CWD by following these tips:

  • If hunting any type of deer, elk, moose, or caribou outside of New York, debone the animal before bringing it back. See CWD Regulations for Hunters. DEC will confiscate and destroy illegally imported carcasses and parts;
  • Do not use deer-urine-based lures or attractant scents, as these could contain infectious material. Choose synthetic lures instead;
  • Dispose of carcass waste in a landfill, not on the landscape;
  • Report any deer that appears sick or acting abnormally; and
  • Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles.

Impact of EHD on Deer Populations Remains to be Seen

The outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) that killed deer in portions of New York this summer and early fall will impact the experiences of hunters in the hardest hit areas. EHD is a viral disease caused by a biting midge that affects deer but is not infectious to humans. The outbreak ends when frost kills the midges. New York had its fourth and largest EHD outbreak this summer, with about 2,000 dead deer reported. The hardest hit areas were in eastern Ulster, western Dutchess, and western Columbia counties. The disease does not affect deer populations uniformly, and hunters may see variable impacts with few deer on some properties hit hard by EHD and plenty of deer elsewhere. DEC will continue to monitor the impact of EHD through the hunting season and make any necessary management adjustments next year.

Take It - Tag It - Report It

With DEC's HuntFishNY mobile app, reporting a deer or bear harvest is easier than ever. Through this mobile app, hunters, anglers, and trappers can access electronic licenses and report the harvest of deer, bear, and turkey immediately while afield on a mobile device in seconds. Hunters may still use the phone report system (1-866-GAME-RPT) or report online (leaves DEC website), but the mobile system (leaves DEC website) is faster, more convenient, and easier for hunters to accurately enter information. Reporting harvests is required by law, so hunters are encouraged to Take It, Tag It, Report It!

Other Reminders for the 2021 Southern Zone Regular Hunting Season

Choose non-lead ammunition for high-quality meat and reduce risk of lead exposure to non-target wildlife.

Hunger Has A Cure... The Venison Donation Program (leaves DEC website) is a great way to help those less fortunate while also assisting with deer management in New York.

For specific descriptions of regulations and open areas, hunters should refer to the 2021-2022 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide available on DEC's website. Hunters are urged to review regulations and safety tips contained in the guide. Hunters may also be interested in reading DEC's booklet, Hunting the Black Bear in New York (PDF), or DEC's unit-by-unit Deer Hunting Forecasts.

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