The outdoor temperature gauge on my truck read a sultry — for this time of year, anyway — 70 degrees. It was Nov. 9. While bow season was more than a month old, I felt like I should be talking to Randy Stewart about fishing, not whitetails.
This was my annual trip to Clingerman Taxidermy in North Rose. After checking my files, I have been visiting Stewart and featuring him in the Times for 13 years.
“That’s not all,” I explained to my favorite taxidermist. “Add another five years from another newspaper. That makes me feel incredibly old.”
We sat down and talked deer, but when I left a customer came in to pick up his salmon mount. He was with his family, so I asked if they wanted to be in the paper. After all, 70 degrees is fishing mounts, not deer. And, Clingerman doesn’t just do deer, so that is why the column about deer hunting features a salmon. I point this out in case you think I’ve lost my mind.
Back to the deer forecast.
“The first week of bow season started out with hunters shooting Pope & Young deer,” said Stewart, referring to one of the leading bowhunting and conservation organizations in North America. “The weather was normal for the early hunts, and I am seven racks ahead of last year.
“I am seeing younger hunters who are spending more money,” he continued, “and there have been more women bringing deer to me. This is great for the future of hunting.”
Stewart has been in the taxidermy business for 34 years. He bought Clingerman Taxidermy in 1993, so he is a credible source for what is happening in the woods.
“I have seen three generations at Clingerman,” he said. “I have done work for grandpas, fathers and sons and daughters.”
I asked the proverbial question which always pops up during our conversations.
“Predict the future during the regular season,” I said. “Give the readers the straight skinny.”
“After the warm snap of weather, I am predicting another great year,” Stewart informed.
I asked if warm temperatures affect deer, and he told me the reason for less deer heads coming through his front door is the hunters, not the deer. Most stay out of the woods when it is hot. Too many bugs.
“During the bow season I have seen older bucks, 3-4 years old,” he said. “This was before the rut, so the regular gun season should be the same.
“I have also seen more bucks during the crossbow season, which started Nov. 7. Some are first-time hunters, while others are older and cannot pull back a compound.”
Stewart has a room where he organizes the deer heads. However, I noticed another small room that was filled with exceptionally large elk racks.
“I know we are discussing deer, but this is my best year for elk,” he said. “I have taken in 10 racks already. They will be high-quality mounts. They are from Pennsylvania and Colorado.”
It was time for me to bid my favorite taxidermist adieu and return home to my computer for the writing process.
Before leaving I took the picture of the family with their salmon caught while they were fishing with “My Way” charters from Sodus Bay with charter captain Dave Urban.
Speaking of the rut, the breeding season (or rut) for white-tailed deer in New York runs from October to January, with peak activity occurring in mid-November. Most does (females) breed for their first time at 1½ years old. After a gestation period of about 200 days, females usually give birth to one or two fawns in late spring.
DEC also forecasts a solid harvest in 2020
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has the same outlook as Randy Stewart, predicting a great regular season. For 2020, the organization expects the statewide buck harvest to be similar or slightly larger than in 2019.
With new population objectives throughout the state and growing deer populations in some areas, they have again prescribed an increase of Deer Management Permits, antlerless tags, in hopes hunters will respond by increasing the antlerless harvest by about 10%.
Deer-sighting rates recorded by bowhunters last fall suggest a growing population, with an average of 7.9 deer seen per 10 hours and three antlerless deer seen per antlered deer. Interestingly, bowhunters reported seeing a consistent four fawns for every 10 adult does each of the past three years, but harvest of fawns declined by about 50% in the Northern Zone and 35% in the Southern Zone in 2019. This shouldn’t be a cause for alarm, as fawns generally make up a relatively small portion of the deer harvest.
Also, the 2019-20 winter was mild across most of the state, and deer survival should have been very strong.
You can see the entire sighting log at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7193.html.
The forage base greened up well in the spring, and conditions were great during fawning season. However, by early July, most of northern and eastern New York had experienced several weeks of abnormally dry conditions. While not problematic yet, if the dry conditions persist and worsen, fawn weights and adult male antler sizes may be a bit lower than average in those areas this fall. Still, hunters should anticipate great deer hunting opportunities throughout New York state.
Salmon River finish salmon egg collections
Salmon River Hatchery staff completed egg collections for Chinook and coho salmon Oct. 21, resulting in over 1.6 million Chinook salmon eggs and 860,000 coho salmon eggs.
Chinook and coho Salmon are stocked in Lake Ontario tributaries every year, and they provide a world-class fishing experience in the open lake and tributaries. Chinook salmon hatched from eggs collected in 2020 will be held in the hatchery for a relatively short period of time and stocked in April/May 2021. Raised in the hatchery for a longer period, coho salmon that are hatched from eggs collected in 2020 will be stocked as yearlings in the spring of 2022.
Find more information about Lake Ontario fisheries management and the Salmon River Fish Hatchery at www.dec.ny.gov.