There are many things about managing wildlife that many, including me, don't totally understand. What's even worse, however, is they don't attempt to figure it out.
In the world of hunting and fishing, there are few things that will start a heated conversation more than wildlife management. Some feel that taking does is a waste of the resource. Others are convinced that feeding wildlife during the harsh winter months is the right way to do things. Then there are those who feel taking only mature males will keep the herds or flocks in check and, of course, there are some who feel that Mother Nature will take care of herself and the critters that roam the woodlots.
Some have long believed that two of the best ways to manage wildlife is to control habitat and harvest an equal or greater number of females.
For those who remember the old days of 3-on-1 doe permits, today's system is liberal, to say the least. As sportsmen across Chautauqua County pick up their 2013-14 licenses, some folks are confused that they are only getting one DMP tag for 9J. With all the talk of a "high" second chance for a DMP tag that are successful in their permit application and then getting their second choice, it can be upsetting. In today's world of computers, that is what is called the luck of the draw.
Once the state figures out that year in and year out the same successful hunters harvest more deer then 80 percent of the hunting population, then maybe the process will be better for management.
Getting permits in the hands of the sportsmen who will use them will do more for keeping the deer herd in check than any other single management tool that the state has issued in the history of the agency.
The last few years has seen hunters getting more and more permits each season, and this season is no different.
While I oftentimes don't totally agree with the way the state runs or sees things, it's my feeling that in the case of managing the deer population they have a good handle on it, but there is always room for improvement. While there are many things I would like see changed, it took years to get the program to the point we are now at.
Taking it one step further will take some time, but if the present system is any indication, there is hope for new changes. Having hunted other states that have check-in systems, I have seen first hand that their program works and what makes it successful.
In a perfect world, I and others of like mind would like a system that rewards successful hunters and does a good job of management. A check-in system that would include one tag and three-deer, one buck and two does, making multi-tags available to successful hunters. The three-deer system would work like this: A hunter would be allowed three deer, two of which must be does, and the other must be a buck. A hunter could shoot one buck if he desired, but to purchase another tag he would have to shoot two does. The deer could be taken in any order.
With this system, successful hunters, along with the state, would basically be in charge of how the herd is managed. It also wouldn't upset those who like the old system of taking one buck, but will also allow those who want to shoot does have to harvest bucks.
While this may be a pie-in-the-sky approach, it's not original. Other states have used this system with success.
To take the program one more step, a minimum antler width like the one used by our friends in the Keystone State would take our management program to the next level. If you want to see bucks and have big bucks in the future, we have to change the way we hunt. The past couple of years we are seeing some pilot programs in select units in the state, working under an antler-restrictions program.
Continuing to harvest does will keep the herd in check and will increase the odds of having bigger bucks in the future.
The same can be done with the turkey population. Chautauqua County spring and fall turkey hunters traditionally harvest more birds than another county in the state. Being the No. 1 county in the state means we have some of the finest turkey hunters around, but it also means we have some of the smartest birds in the state.
The fall turkey season opens on Oct. 19 in Chautauqua County with one tag available allowing hunters the choice of shooting a hen or gobbler. To manage the turkey population, it's important that we do our part in keeping the local flocks in check with harvesting mature hens.
If you've hunted spring turkeys for any time, you no doubt have been cut off by a mature boss hen. With only bearded birds allowed during the spring season, it's up to those who hunt the fall season to harvest the mature hens. While I know everybody wants to harvest a mature gobbler, it's important for the future that we harvest hens in the fall. While current state regulations state that either sex can be taken in the fall, it's important that we chose to harvest hens during the fall.
While the introduction of the wild turkey into New York and the success of the program has been well documented, it's time we as sportsmen do our part by taking a mature hen in the fall.
For those who enjoy chasing September geese, it's been a tough season so far for most. With the change in current September goose regulations of increased bag limits, use of electronic calls and expanded hours, one would think that the goose population would be in good shape in no time.
Not to be a Monday morning quarterback, but how is that working out so far? I'm fortunate enough to have good friends and pro staff members located throughout the state and as of this writing nobody is finding birds with any consistency. Yes, there are family groups that are huntable but to set up and hunt just a handful of birds it not much worth it.
It seems the past several years have seen the latter part of September is the only time, for the most part, goose hunters can get into birds. From the outside looking in, it would make better sense to extend the early goose season until mid-October after the fields are cut and hunters can manage the population much better and go back to using mouth calls, getting the limit back to eight and keeping the hours as the regular season.
Which ever side of the fence you stand on, it's important to know that it's the sportsmen who are the ones who will make the final decision just before you pull the trigger or release that arrow.