Despite Changes, Small Game Seasons Offer Opportunities – Oneida Dispatch


The grouse season opens on September 20 in the North Zone and October 1 in the rest of the state.

They remain one of the most popular species despite declining numbers due to habitat loss. This decline has been aggravated by the bad weather we have had in recent springs. The cold and rainy weather meant that many grouse chicks and poults did not survive.

Squirrel season opened on September 1 across the state. Common seasons that open on October 1 are coyote and cottontail rabbit. The mountain hare (rabbits) opens in the northern zone on October 1, but does not open until December in much of the southern zone. Turkey season runs from October 1-13 in the North Zone and October 16-29 in the South Zone. The statewide limit is one bird.

Turkey numbers have also dropped in recent years, partly due to the spring weather, as well as other unknown factors. Predators probably play an important role.

Some believe there will be more turkeys this year due to more sightings in the summer.

However, it must be remembered that there will be a greater number of young birds along the path in late summer, because that is where the grasshoppers are found. This may not reflect an increase in the size of the population as a whole. This decrease in numbers is reflected in the shorter seasons (two weeks) in the northern and southern zones and the fact that you are now only allowed one bird per season.

Finding turkeys will depend on local mast crops as well as farm crops.

If there is an abundance of food in an area they may stay, but normally wild turkeys travel one to three miles a day in a three day circle. Do your scouting now.

Rabbit and hare populations are cyclical, but have generally declined.

There are encouraging reports of an increase in numbers in recent years. Changing agricultural practices that leave less canopy, the growth of young forests into mature canopies, and a sharp increase in predators, especially avian predators, have all contributed to a decline in rabbits. Those that remain tend to be more nocturnal and live in thicker cover.

Rabbit hunting provides a great opportunity for family members, especially young ones, to go hunting with older adults. These shared experiences of fun times in the field strengthen family bonds and are a chance to learn about ethics, safety and conservation topics.

Pheasants are a popular species despite small or non-existent populations in most areas. The state stores 30,000 birds on land open to the public each year.

In the northern and eastern regions, September 24 and 25 are youth-only hunts. The northern and eastern regions have a regular season opening on October 1. The daily limit is two birds.

In the 1970s it was the golden age of pheasant hunting as there were plenty of birds and suitable cover. During the season, Tom Roberts, Ron Daniels, Jack Radley and I would run from school with the echoes of the final bell ringing in our ears, taking off our coats and ties, and changing clothes on the fly as we headed for pheasant blankets. In the 1980s things started to change. New methods of farming, including large fields with little or no cover, mowing hay earlier in the year, common use of pesticides and little grain waste left behind have gradually led to the demise of the pheasant population. Protection of avian predators and an increase in other predators proved to be the final straw. Today, restocking in some wildlife management areas provides short-term action.

Coyote season runs from October 1 to March 28 with no limit, much to the dismay of many crazed coyote lovers. They can be hunted by common methods like predator calling or with packs of dogs. Most people hunt them after deer season.

For generations, young people would rush home after school, grab a gun from the closet, and head to a nearby pasture or field to hunt with friends. Times have changed and in addition to different attitudes, these nearby pastures are now probably a housing estate or self-storage facility. There are competitors
attractions for young people’s time and attention. Many species are no longer abundant. But small game hunting is still a great way to spend an afternoon for people of all ages. Make sure you have your licenses, know the basics of gun safety, and take advantage of the opportunities we have left.


Licenses, permits, etc.

Don’t forget to get your licenses, deer management permits, etc. before October 1st if you have not already obtained them before October 1st. If you already have a lifetime license or deer management license, you have until October 1 to shoot for a deer management license. Check the list of handicaps for the area you plan to draw online or with the local licensing agent. Consider donating a habitat stamp.

Supervised hunts: supervised hunts for young people and women offered

In last week’s column, we briefly outlined the shortcomings of teaching ourselves the rights and wrongs of goose hunting. Again this year, Sportsmen and ECOs in Oneida and Madison Counties are offering youth and women the opportunity to learn and experience a supervised goose hunt. This continues to be a great opportunity for youth 12+ and women who otherwise have no one to teach them goose hunting skills. This year the hunt will take place on the weekend of September 25 with a safety and education day on September 24.

12-15 year olds must have a small game license and HIP number.

Youth 16 and over and women must have the above and a federal waterfowl stamp. On security day, ammunition will be provided. For the day of the hunt, they should have non-toxic steel or shot.

Space is limited for this popular event, so anyone interested should register as soon as possible. You can visit the website or contact the following for forms or questions: Scott Faulkner –, or 315.225-0192.

RGS – November 4

There is an organization that fights for conservation and works effectively to improve the habitat of grouse and other species – The Ruffed Grouse Society. This organization is an important voice in conservation. However, its influence is seen directly in home improvement through funding or direct action.

Each year, locals give substantial funds to DEC or similar agencies to fund large projects to clear or improve forest habitat to make it suitable for grouse.

Local chapters also organize their members or other volunteers to clear undergrowth of apple trees, remove inappropriate vegetation to provide open space, or whatever it takes to create a good habitat under professional supervision.

This year’s banquet is Friday, November 4, 2022. Social hour begins at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. This year the banquet will be held at Drumlins, 800 Nottingham Road, Syracuse, NY 13224. There will be a wide assortment of great prizes with early bird raffle tickets available by October 28th.

Dangers of the Adirondacks

On August 30, the towns of Essex and Westport suffered a microburst that caused massive storm damage, including a significant amount of blowdown in the Split Rock Mountain wilderness forest. Many trails are completely impassable at this time. DEC and rangers work to clean up the purge
from the trails.

Elsewhere, work has started on a temporary bridge over LaBier Dam that will turn motor vehicles into the Four Corners parking area. To prepare for the work, the current bridge over the dam will be removed. This will temporarily prevent all access for materials and pedestrians.


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