Southern Zone Big Game Season Set to Start on November 20, 2021

By Rich Davenport, Published 11/12/2021

A adult doe harvested from Allegany State Park, November 2020

New York’s Southern Zone hunters are gearing up for the regular season big game opener, which begins Saturday, November 20, 2021. Along with the anticipation and excitement, several changes have taken effect this year that hunters need to be aware of. With the deer hunting forecast for this year looking very good, a review of the changes and safety awareness before this season starts is always a good idea!

Earlier this year, the NYSDEC codified new regulations to effectively execute the updated Deer Management Plan, adopted in late-Spring 2021. These changes are meant to strengthen deer management efforts, as well as provide some additional hunting opportunities in the Southern Zone of New York.

The first change hunters should be aware of is the expansion of legal shooting hours, a welcome change that should increase the deer harvest. Hunters may now legally start shooting one-half hour before sunrise, with the end of hunting hours being one-half hour after sunset. Hunters are advised to download the sunrise and sunset tables, and do the math to determine when those hours are for where you may be hunting. It is worth noting that this change only applies to big game hunting, and encompasses all big game hunting seasons, statewide. No changes were made to the hunting hours for any other species! A word of advice, just because you can shoot, doesn’t mean you have to. Hunters are still advised to use some common sense, and if you cannot identify your target due to low light, refrain from taking that shot.

The next big change, again, statewide, is the new mandatory blaze orange/ blaze pink regulations for anyone hunting big game with a firearm, or accompanying someone hunting big game with a firearm. Hunters are required to either wear a blaze orange/ pink hat, or a vest that is at least 250 square inches of blaze orange/ pink, and it must be visible for 360 degrees. Patterned clothing may also be worn, provided the pattern is over 50% orange or pink. And this must be worn until you are out of the woods and done hunting for the day.

The regular season runs through December 12, 2021, and with the warmer weather this fall has brought, some areas did get hit with Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, a biting-midge borne virus that doesn’t spread deer to deer, nor poses any issues to people, but many areas, especially in the Hudson Valley of NY experienced a good number of reported dead deer from this virus. If you see any dead deer near water, please be sure to report this to the DEC regional wildlife biologist for your region. Nevertheless, deer are very abundant this year, and outlooks are solid for a strong harvest this year.

Early Archery and Crossbow season are currently underway in the Southern Zone, while regular season continues in the Northern Zone until December 5, 2021. Remember, if you are successful this year, hunters are required to report your harvest within 7 days. You can use the DEC website, or phone in the harvest, but best bet is to use the new mobile app, called HuntFishNY, and is available for download now. This replaced the old Pocket Ranger app that has ceased working with the new licensing system launch last year.

For hunters in Region 9, a DEC check station will be operating opening weekend on Route 16, about a mile south of Holland, NY, on the northbound side of the road. Although voluntary, hunters are encouraged to stop and have biologists collect samples and record the deer, as vital information is gleaned that can help provide better insight into the herd and overall deer health. The check station is open on opening day from noon until 8:00 PM, and on Sunday, November 21, from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. Hunters may also donate their deer to Hunters Helping the Hungry at this check station as well!

Gook luck and be safe out there, fellow hunters, and remember… Aim small, miss small.