Gov. Hochul vetoes bill allowing Upstate NY counties to ban holiday hunt

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Gov. Kathy Hochul has vetoed a bill that would allow Upstate counties to opt-out of the new “holiday hunt” season, which went into effect only last year.

The New York State legislature passed the bill earlier this year.

The holiday hunt allows big game hunters in the Southern Zone to take deer during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Southern Zone includes most of Central New York, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Western New York.

CNY lawmakers played a key role in pushing the opt-out bill through the state legislature, including Sen. John Mannion (D-Geddes), who sponsored it.

In a statement, Mannion said that he will continue pursuing a “legislative solution” allowing counties to opt out of the holiday hunt, calling the current regulation “burdensome to municipalities.”

“Deer hunters, sportsman’s organizations, local governments, and conservation officers all supported this bill because it makes outdoor recreation safer and protects a deer population that is exhausted by this time of year,” Mannion said.

Snowmobilers were among the opt-out bill’s strongest supporters. Their main concern is that the holiday hunt diminishes riding opportunities, as private landowners typically allow snowmobiling only after hunting season ends.

Some hunter groups also supported the bill. In a recent letter, the group NYR’s Against Longer Deer Season pointed out that New York already has one of the longest firearms seasons among northern states — 31 days in the southern zone (38 including the holiday hunt).

“The governor’s veto affirms that the legislature should stick to what they know best, which is not regulating wildlife,” said Dave Simmons, Onondaga County Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs board member.

OCFSC represents around 40 CNY sporting clubs and more than 10,000 active sportsmen and women.

Simmons said the authority to manage the state’s wildlife should remain with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and its “trained and experienced biologists and technicians.”

“Hopefully this veto will discourage future attempts at passing such a bill,” Simmons added.

2022 holiday hunt begins next week

The 2022 holiday hunt is an extension of the late bow and muzzleloader season in the Southern Zone, and runs from from Dec. 26, 2022, to Jan. 1, 2023.

Hunters participating in the holiday hunt must possess a bowhunting or muzzleloading privilege for the late bow or muzzleloader season, and they may use all valid deer carcass tags.

The extra hunting days are designed to give hunters more flexibility, particularly younger hunters on break from school. Young hunters reported taking more deer during the inaugural holiday hunt last year than they did during the traditional portion of the late bow and muzzleloader season, DEC said.