My annual visit to Clingerman Taxidermy in North Rose is something I look forward to a whole lot. Randy Stewart, owner of the business, is my go-to guy for deer facts before the regular gun season starts. He’s my barometer for gauging what’s happening in the woods. Plus, he is a very fond friend of mine, and the visits always make my day.
We sat in the back room of the shop and, over some freshly brewed coffee, we did some serious gabbing … then we talked deer. Stewart, who has been doing taxidermy work since 1986, bought Clingerman Taxidermy in 1994. He knows what’s happening when it comes to all kinds of wildlife, woods or water.
“How long have we been doing this?” Stewart asked as I grabbed my notebook.
“I have no idea,” I said, pen in hand. “Maybe 10 years.”
I checked when I got home. It’s been 14 years.
“There is good news from the bow season,” Stewart said. “I have three 160 class bucks, all from the early season, and currently 17 high-quality deer, 70 percent of those making the New York (record book) with 120 class and over.”
“What exactly is a high-quality deer?” I asked, taking another sip of coffee.
Stewart said Quality Deer Management is when hunters try to take mature bucks, which is a way of managing the whitetail population.
“A mature buck would be approximately 4½ years and older,” he told me. “The best way to judge the age of a buck while hunting is to look at the silhouette of the body. The neck will be large, and there will be a drop in the backbone.”
The size of the antlers has nothing to do with age, he noted.
“The rack on a deer is determined by genetics,” Stewart informed me.
Stewart said Clingerman Taxidermy has mounted quality deer for the last two years. “Last year was great, and during this year’s bow hunting I’ve seen quality whitetails,” he reiterated.
Predictions for successful hunting, especially in Region 8, are excellent. And, based on last year’s harvest, Stewart should be very busy.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the total 2018 deer harvest in Region 8 was 59,547, a 10.8 percent hike from 2017. The harvest in all 15 Wildlife Management Units was up.
Compared to the 2017 season, the adult buck take rose 2.1 percent, while the antlerless harvest increased 17.9 percent. While the total buck harvest was up in nine units, down in five units and essentially unchanged in one unit, the decline in the number of yearling bucks harvested in all units indicates that more hunters are voluntarily letting young bucks go to watch them grow. This should lead to an increased harvest of 2½-and 3½-year-old bucks this fall.
Even with the increased antlerless harvest last year, a fourth mild winter in a row should continue the trend of good numbers of does and yearlings. An unusually wet spring delayed planting for many farmers, so standing corn during the hunting season will provide cover for deer and make deer harvest a bit more challenging in some areas.
Stewart said it’s all good news from deer managers, saying that only weather factors would affect the deer take.
“Depending on the weather, it should be a great opening weekend,” Stewart said.
When discussing good or bad weather, it has nothing to do with the deer. When the rut is on, whitetails aren’t bothered by wind, rain, snow or cold weather. It’s the hunters that would decide not to walk the woods with inclement weather. If they stay in bed, the total take will be down.
Stewart advises hunters who travel outside New York state they need to understand the regulations for bringing deer back.
“Before you hunt in Ohio or Illinois, go to your taxidermist and let them teach you how to remove the skin from the skull on your deer,” he said. “Then you can cut the horns off the skull and keep yourself legal bringing back your deer to New York state.”
The DEC webpage outlines legal ramifications for not following important procedures.
“Debone or quarter your deer before you bring it back to New York,” it reads. “This practice removes ‘high risk’ parts such as the brain and spinal cord that could potentially spread (Chronic Wasting Disease). If a whole intact carcass is brought in from a prohibited state, province, or any high-fence shooting facility, the person will be ticketed and the entire animal, including trophy heads, will be confiscated and destroyed. Meat, hide and cape, antlers, cleaned skull cap with antlers attached, finished taxidermy mounts, tanned hides, and clean upper canine teeth are permitted.”