With the Southern Zone regular big game season beginning Saturday, Nov. 19 throughout much of the southern part of New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos is encouraging outdoor enthusiasts to respectfully share the woods and follow common-sense safety precautions this fall and winter.
“With most public land across New York State open to multiple forms of recreation, from hiking and nature photography to hunting and trapping, visitors should be cautious, courteous, and responsible when sharing the woods to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience,” said Commissioner Seggos. “DEC encourages all visitors to review the safety guidelines for hunting and recreating in the woods before going afield and respectfully sharing the outdoors with others.”
DEC requires big game hunters using a firearm to wear hunter orange or pink and encourages non-hunters to wear blaze orange, blaze pink, or another bright color during fall and winter months to be seen more easily and from greater distances. In addition, wearing bright colors makes it easier for Forest Rangers, Environmental Conservation Police Officers, and other rescue personnel to find lost, sick, or injured people afield.
Pet owners are also encouraged to affix a bright colored vest or scarf on their dogs and keep pets leashed at all times. Trapping seasons for many species are open throughout the fall and early winter. Although rare, traps set for furbearers like raccoons and coyotes can also capture dogs that are not under control. Trapping is a highly regulated activity and regulations are strongly enforced. Trappers are required to take an educational course before getting a license and DEC works closely with the trapping community to minimize risks to non-target wildlife and domestic animals.
Hunting is among the most popular forms of wildlife recreation in the state, drawing an estimated 600,000 New Yorkers afield each year. Hunting is safe and economically important, helping to manage wildlife populations and promote family traditions, while fostering an understanding and respect for the environment. Hikers should be aware that they may encounter hunters bearing firearms or archery equipment on trails. Hunters should likewise recognize that they may encounter hikers and others enjoying the outdoors. Hunting-related shooting incidents involving non-hunters are extremely rare and the 2021 hunting seasons in New York were the safest ever, with the lowest number of incidents since record-keeping began.
Hunters can minimize the potential for disturbance by and to other forms of recreation by following a few tips. Before a season opens, when hunters are scouting for the perfect spot or stand location, take the time to check if the planned location is popular. Avoiding locations that crowd other hunters or are near a sought-out hiking spot can improve both the hunting and recreational experience. If a preferred hunting spot is too crowded, identify an alternative location ahead of time.
DEC maintains hiking, biking, skiing, and snowmobile trails in many areas of Forest Preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill parks, as well as in State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, and Unique Areas open to hunting. DEC launched the ‘Love Our New York Lands’ campaign to encourage visitors to State-owned and managed lands to practice responsible recreation. The campaign is responsive to the steady increase in the number of visitors to State Lands, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the decade prior. Love Our New York Lands bolsters ongoing State-and partner-led efforts to educate the public about how to responsibly enjoy outdoor recreation on public lands without negatively impacting natural resources.
Find recreation options by visiting DEC’s Trails Less Traveled or checking out DECinfo Locator. Many trails are accessible to people with disabilities. Check out DEC’s YouTube playlist, with tips for how to plan and prepare for a hike Hiking Essentials, and DEC’s Hunter Education playlist for more information Basic Rules of Hunter Safety.
Hunting Within State Parks:
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation offers many places to hunt, including 81 parks, three historic sites, three golf courses, and 50 boat launches that provide opportunities to hunt a variety of wildlife including big game, small game, turkey, furbearers, waterfowl, and migratory bird species. In addition to a valid hunting license, all hunters wishing to take advantage of select hunting seasons within State Parks must obtain a regional hunting permit for each park. Trapping is not allowed in State Parks. For more information, visit the New York State Parks website.
Photo at top: Big game hunters. Wikimedia Commons photo.