• Staff Report

Hunting season opens Saturday

FINGER LAKES — The regular firearms season for white-tail deer begins Saturday, Nov. 16. Hunter safety is essential for a successful season.  Officials from the Finger Lakes National Forest and the Department of Environmental Conservation offer the following safety tips for hunters to enjoy the season without accidents. 

• Clearly identify your target before shooting to prevent accidents or fatalities. Fire only at clearly identified wildlife and know what is beyond your target.

• Be alert when hunting near developed areas and trails. Other recreationists are in the forest as well.

• Check weather reports before visiting the forest—dress properly and be prepared for the worst possible conditions.

• Tell someone where you will be hunting and when you will return—be familiar with the area in which you are hunting.

• Wear blaze orange and try to be visible from all directions.

• Check hunting equipment before and after each outing, and maintain it properly. Familiarize yourself with the operation of your firearm before using it in the field.

• Carry a spare set of dry clothes. Use layering techniques to prevent moisture retention, while maintaining body warmth.

• Always bring waterproof gear.

• Have a first aid kit, flashlight, cell phone, food and water in case of an emergency.

• Treat every firearm as if it is loaded;

• Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction;

• Hunters should keep their fingers off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot; and

• Always be sure of the target and what is beyond.

During the past 10 years, no hunter wearing hunter orange was mistaken for game and killed in New York. Most big game hunters involved in firearm-related incidents were not wearing hunter orange.

Tree Stand Safety Tips

Every year, hunters are seriously injured, paralyzed or killed by falling out of tree stands. Falls from tree stands have become a major cause of hunting-related injuries and fatalities in New York. In 2017, DEC Commissioner Seggos requested the agency’s Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) to track and investigate tree stand injuries. DEC investigated five tree stand accidents in 2018. All five accidents involved a hunter who was not wearing a harness or were using a harness that was not attached to the stand or tree at the time of their fall. The proper use of tree stands and full-body harnesses helps to prevent these injuries and fatalities.

Hunters are encouraged to use a full-body safety harness and a climbing belt and stay connected from the time they leave the ground to the time they get back down. Most tree stand accidents occur when hunters are climbing in and out of the stand. In addition, follow these safety tips:

• Never climb in or out of a tree stand with a loaded firearm;

• Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before using the tree stand and check stands (including straps and chains) every season. Replace any worn or missing parts; and

• Hunters should tell friends and relatives where they will be hunting and when they will return. A map showing the tree stand location makes it easier for others to find a hunter if they do not return on time.

Legal Hunting Hours

DEC reminds hunters that legal hours for big game hunting across the state are from official sunrise to sunset. It is the hunter’s responsibility to know when these times are in his or her location. Consult the DEC hunting guide, use the DEC HuntFishNY app, or search weather data on the internet to find the official sunrise and sunset times for the hunter’s area. It is illegal to hunt deer and bear before sunrise or after sunset.

Fitness for Hunters

Hunting is an exciting sport, but it can also be physically demanding. Every year, some hunters suffer heart attacks and strokes. Walking in heavy clothing, carrying gear and dragging a deer through the woods can require vigorous exertion and may be more stress than the heart can handle. It is a good idea to exercise and build up endurance before hunting season. In addition, hunters should be prepared for winter conditions when venturing in the woods, inform a friend or relative of their whereabouts, and pack emergency supplies like flashlights, water and high energy foods. 

Hunter Education Program

DEC requires every hunter to take a Hunter Education Course free of charge before they can receive a license to hunt. Since New York’s Hunter Education Program was first introduced in 1949, the number of hunting-related accidents have declined by 80 percent. Thanks to the efforts of 2,600 DEC staff and volunteer hunter education program instructors that teach nearly 50,000 students each year, New York’s hunting safety statistics continue to improve.

In 2018, 13 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSI) were reported in New York. In 1966, there were 166 incidents, 13 of which were fatal.

For more information on these and other important hunting safety tips, please visit DEC’s website and watch a video about hunter safety and tree stand safety (links leave DEC’s website) for more tips on how to prevent accidents.