Opening day in New York’s Northern Zone is just as big as it is in the Southern Tier. In fact, we have two of them! A week prior to the regular big game season opener, there is a week-long early muzzleloading season in the Northern Zone that always opens the Saturday following Columbus Day.
Since the state began allowing additional tags for both archery and especially muzzleloading hunters, the popularity of hunting with a smokepole has increased immensely. It’s no secret that the timing of that change coincided with technological advancements such as in-line and breach-loading muzzleloaders, as well as new and improved projectiles and propellants. It was very similar then to what is transpiring with the crossbow now, minus the expanded hunting opportunities.
Deer camps in the Adirondacks swelled during the muzzleloading opener, and will do so again when the regular big game season opens on October 26. Many relish the opportunity to take any deer, as most (but not all) Wildlife Management Units allow the harvesting of antlerless deer during muzzleloading season. Still others, especially in the western Adirondacks and Tug Hill region, are buck-only units. Some hunters would prefer the entire region be antlered deer only. The last time that was the case was in 2003.
Due simply to the way the calendar dates fall, the regular rifle/big game season opens late this year, and close late, too. Northern Zone hunters enjoy seven weekends in the woods (nine including muzzleloading), which seems like a lot, but it really isn’t.
Some hunters will wait until the rut or good tracking snow to hit the woods, but for others the early season is all about finding sign, feeding areas and even doe groups to keep tabs on when the rut eventually kicks in. Call it in-season scouting if you will, but hunting the seasons within the season has its merits.
All hunting tactics work in the Northern Zone, especially in the Adirondacks where you can really stretch your legs. Deer drives remain the “money” tactic for big and small groups alike, but many big-woods hunters choose to still-hunt, stalk or, in the right conditions, track their buck. Others will strategically sit part or all of the day in a spot where they expect to encounter a buck. Such spots are either found through scouting and even trail camera work, or known travel routes that produce season after season.
The Northern Zone is not all about the Adirondacks, as the lands that wrap around the mountains are just as much agricultural as anywhere in the Southern Zone. Here, the hunting trends of today are often employed and it’s not uncommon to find QDMA co-ops and properties managed for deer.
How this hunting season will go will be partially up to Mother Nature, which dealt a heavy blow about halfway through the 2018 season. There’s a good mast crop this year and, thanks to recent rain storms, water is not an issue. Now, it’s time to go deer hunting.
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