Happy hunting

Today marks the first day of regular deer season -- and the hills are alive with gunshots, blaze orange, and fleeing whitetails. From now until the end of the season on December 12, Catskills residents should take extra care in the woods, and expect to see a fair number of deer strapped to the hoods of cars around town.

As any good deerslayer knows, deer hunting in the twenty-first century is a lot more complicated than just hiking out into the woods with a rifle and blasting away. There are a lot of rules and red tape involved, most of them geared toward protecting your fellow hunters, other people in the woods, and the deer population itself. If you're a hunter, or even if you're just curious about how things work, you should check out a detailed Q&A about the rules of the game with state DEC officer Woody Erickson, published yesterday in the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Seriously, it's quite thorough. A sample question:

7. What is meant by leaving evidence of sex intact on a buck or doe carcass? Are a buck's antlers okay, or must one leave the entire sex organ or is just the scrotum enough to satisfy a conservation officer?

If you're a non-hunter, and wondering how best to stay safe in the woods during rifle season, check out this recent blog post from Adirondack Almanack. The key, author Diane Chase says, is awareness without paranoia:

My children are well aware of what they need to do to be safe. We unpack our blaze orange vests and hats and stick to the trail. It is this time of year that I encourage them to talk loudly and stick together.

Photo of deer skulls on garden chair by Flickr user Mykl Roventine. Published under Creative Commons license.