By Stephen Borgna sborgna@the-leader.com

Early Saturday morning, thousands of men and women across Steuben County will wake before dawn for one of the year’s annual traditions.

Preceded by bow season, which began in October, gun season for New York deer hunting officially commences at dawn Saturday and will run until Dec. 11 in Steuben and Chemung Counties. By 6 a.m., thousands of hunters will be perched in tree stands or on the ground, with eyes peeled for this year’s harvest.

Archie Frunzi, of Caton, will be among them.

Frunzi, a longtime hunter, will take to the woods with his Winchester .30-30 lever action rifle. Occasionally, he likes to use a larger 30-06 rifle, but prefers the .30-30.

Frunzi has lived on his land for approximately 21 years now, and normally hunts on his private 55 acre property along with his son and other friends. He has seen many hunting seasons come and go.

This year, he believes hunters will have to spend more time in the woods than usual.

“I think you’re going to see less deer this year than in past years,” Frunzi said. “Normally in the fields, you’ll see herds of 8, 10, 12 of them. Not this year.”

“It’s been too warm,” he said.

Many will attribute less deer movement this year as due to warmer fall temperatures, compared to the frosty mornings usually associated with deer season and prefered by many hunters. Deer will tend to limit movement in warmer temperatures, and exert movement when it’s colder.

While the deer may move around less if it’s warm, DEC Senior Wildlife Biologist Art Kirsch said there’s still plenty of them.

“We’re coming off of a two-year very small decline in deer harvests affected by those two tough winters we had two and three winters ago,” Kirsch said. “But largely the effects of that are behind us now, and there should be plenty - especially younger deer out there, younger bucks - because we hardly had any winter at all last winter, so there was virtually no deer mortality over the winter.”

He also said that during opening day when there’s so many hunters in the woods, warmer temperatures may not matter, which may come as good news. 

“The opening few days there’s so many hunters out there that I don’t know if it’s a factor of how much deer move naturally,” Kirsch said. “They’re going to be pushed around.”

“The forecast calls for much colder the day after,” he added. “Sunday might be the time to be in the woods. With a dropping barometer and a cold front coming through, this time of year the conventional wisdom is that it spells for really good hunting.”

According to WETM’s Thursday evening forecast, Saturday is expected to be cloudy with rain and snow showers likely, and a high of 62.

Conditions are expected to be more-favorable Sunday. The forecast calls for clouds and wind with snow showers likely, with a high of 36.

In a statement several weeks ago, the US Forest Service wished to remind hunters of several pointers to consider for staying warm and safe during the hunt:

N. Check weather reports before visiting the forest - dress properly and be prepared for the worst possible conditions.

N. Tell someone where you will be hunting and when you will return - be familiar with the area that you are hunting.

N. Wear blaze orange and try to be visible from all directions.

N. Check hunting equipment before and after each outing, and maintain it properly. Familiarize yourself with the operation of your firearm before using it in the field.

N. Carry a spare set of dry clothes. Use layering techniques to prevent moisture retention, while maintaining body warmth.

N. Always bring waterproof gear.

N. Have a first aid kit, flashlight, cell phone, food and water in case of an emergency.

N. Clearly identify your target before shooting to prevent accidents or fatalities. Fire only at clearly identified wildlife and know what is beyond your target.

N. Be alert when hunting near developed areas and trails. Other recreationists are in the forest as well.