By Hannes Dziak

Well, it’s that time of year. Alarm goes of at 4:15 a.m.— not that it matters because you were awake all night with heavy anticipation of what the morning might bring. Nope, I’m not referring to Christmas, but to the other “holiday” that many western New Yorkers can’t wait for—opening day of regular season for big game. This Saturday, Nov. 18 marks the start of gun season for deer.

Many hunters plan for this day all year, whether it’s planting food plots, setting up cameras to follow deer activity, staying sharp with your aim with target practice, or putting up tree stands and ground blinds.

This time of year is much more than just hiding out in the woods for this hunter; it’s about camaraderie. Every hunter has their own tradition. For me, my two friends leave the city life and move in with my family for the weekend. We stay up late talking about all the deer that will be hanging out by us, have a big breakfast, and head out to our spots before sunrise. There is just something about sitting deep in the woods before the sun comes up. Everything is still, except for maybe an owl saying goodnight to his friend or a coyote signing off for the night. As soon as it’s light, that’s when the buck of a lifetime shows his head— well, not really, but that’s the thought that keeps us coming back, just like that one good hole of golf that makes you think, “Yeah, I could be good at this game if I played more.”  Many days, no deer will be seen; that doesn’t mean the day was a waste though. In my days of sitting in tree stands, I’ve seen beavers, raccoons, minks and bear. And, of course, there are the deer that stop by for a second, while you’re sipping your coffee or crunching on trail mix, just to prove to you that they do exist.

Some hunters have traditions that were rooted generations ago. A great friend of mine was lucky enough to marry into a hunting family and slipped seamlessly into tradition. For Tim Smith, a chiropractor in Derby, hunting camp is Allegany State Park. It’s here that three generations gather for 10 days. I was lucky enough to be “adopted” into this camp and I get down there as many days as I can. The family gathers here from WNY, the Adirondacks , and even as far south as the Carolinas. It’s really special to gather around campfires, have a few drinks and relive all the deer that were harvested or almost. Of course, most are lies, but that’s what makes it special.

Whatever your tradition is, I hope you have a safe and fulfilling deer season. As my opening weekend house guest Ryan says, “ a bad day in the woods is better than a good day at work.” Whatever your plans are this deer season, embrace this time of year, tell one more story and make one more memory—because the off season feels like an eternity, my friend.

Read up on safety tips and the new regulations set, places to hunt, safety tips and more at

DEC to Operate Deer/Bear Check Stations Opening Weekend

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today that the agency will operate two deer and bear check stations on opening weekend of the regular big game season and encourages hunters to visit these stations.

DEC’s Region 9 annual check station, located on Route 16, in Holland, Erie County (northbound about one mile south of the town of Holland), will operate Saturday, Nov. 18 from noon until 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Participation is voluntary and helps DEC gather valuable data to help assess the status of the area’s big game population.

In cooperation with Cabela’s®, DEC will also be hosting a second check station on Sunday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the Cheektowaga Cabela’s, located at 2003 Walden Ave. Participants will be entered into a drawing to win a Hunter’s Processing Package valued at more than $400.

“We welcome hunters to participate in DEC’s data collection and research efforts again this year,” said Ken Baginski, DEC Regional Wildlife Manager. “Although it is a completely voluntary program, we encourage hunters to take a few extra minutes to help increase our knowledge about the 2017-18 Big Game Harvest, and to provide us with valuable biological data for ongoing and future big game studies.”

Hunters are encouraged to bring their deer to the check station where DEC staff will determine deer age and collect other important biological and harvest information. With black bear season opening the same day as deer season again this year, staff will check harvested bears, as well.

Technicians from State Department of Health may also be present at the check station to examine deer for ticks and collect samples to test for Lyme disease.

As in previous years, hunters wishing to donate their harvest to “Hunters Helping the Hungry” sponsored by the Venison Donation Coalition, may drop off a deer at the Holland check station during days of operation before 6 p.m.