In Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, this is a slow time of year for big game hunters. Coyotes are about the only big game in town, and they are a tough hunt, thanks to mud, leftover snow, rutted roads and wolf-protection regulations that make it risky to go after these animals at all. The best thing to do right now is plan toward your fall hunts - which, incidentally, should go fairly well, thanks to the weird winter weather that El Niño brought to the Northeast. All my contacts say most areas had a couple of good mid-winter thaws (bad for skiers, great for game) which let the deer escape their yards. And deer and moose in areas hit by January's ice storms had abundant food due to all the broken branches and downed trees. According to my sources, bears appear to be coming out of their dens a little early this year, though what impact this will have on next fall's hunting remains to be seen. With bears, it's the availability of fall foods that determines hunter success.
In any case, now is the time to begin focusing on where you will hunt this fall. That's particularly true if you plan to hunt on your own because you will want to do some prescouting this spring and summer. Fortunately, there is a huge amount of information available on hunting big game in these four states. For example, all of these states produce detailed biological reports indicating what was taken where, not just this past year but in recent years as well. If you read these reports carefully, you can often detect where the emerging hotspots are, as well as the areas that seem to be in a downward trend. It's up to you to gather the information, however, and process it carefully. To help you get started, here's an overview of what's available in New York:
The New York Department of Environmental Conservation's Wildlife Services Center publishes annual harvest data for deer by management unit and bear harvests by geographic range broken down by county. For........(continued)