Skip to main content

How to Take Bears and Deer on New York’s Public Lands


Editor’s Note: Avid hunter Frank Miskey from Lancaster, New York, has been a member of the Mossy Oak ProStaff for 5 years. “I'm still a fan of Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity, because it’s so versatile. Regardless of the season or terrain, Break-Up Infinity seems to fit into all my hunting situations.”   

Because many of the areas I hunt have a lot of low brush, I like to hunt from a tree stand. I climb up to about 16 - 26 feet to set up my stand. Our region also has some small hills, and I want to be able to look over the top of the hill to see what’s on the other side. So, climbing to that height gives me the vantage point where I want to see and shoot. 

Since we only can harvest two bucks per year per hunter here in New York, we try to be really selective and only harvest older-age class bucks. We legally can start hunting bucks after October 15 with bows. At this time of the year, the pre-rut starts; the bucks are making scrapes and rubs; and they're starting to chase does. We’ll hunt the same travel routes to our green fields that we’ve hunted over during the early doe season. The bucks know that the does will move to the green fields to feed. So, they’ll travel the same trails on which the does are moving. Our rut usually runs from November 5 to November 10 where I hunt. We’ll start seeing a lot of pre-rut activity from October 15 until the rut arrives. 

One of the big advantages I have is that the place I hunt is only 10 miles from my home near the town of Elma. Our rifle season starts November 21 at the same time as our shotgun season. At this time, I usually go to southern New York to hunt. I’ll be hunting for black bears with my rifle there. We’ll be bear hunting around the towns of Whitesville and Independence from tree stands in the mornings and the afternoons. In the middle of the day, we’ll make one or two man pushes through small blocks of hardwoods to get the bears up and moving. We’ll be hunting funnel areas and travel trails where we see bear sign. In the past 5 years, the hunters I hunt with and I have taken seven bears, with the biggest weighing 260 pounds. I shoot a .257 Weatherby Magnum when I'm hunting bear. I like this rifle because it’s hard-hitting and flat-shooting. I've found it to be an all-around good gun for deer, bears and any other big game I want to hunt. 

Miskey_day2One of the advantages of hunting bears in the southern tier of New York is if we have the opportunity, we also can take a deer. If we spot a nice mature doe, or if we see an older-age class buck, we’ll take the deer. The biggest buck we’ve harvested in the southern tier of New York is a 5-1/2-year old 8-point that scored about 125 inches. In this section of the state, the food and the genetics just don’t seem to be available to let older-age class bucks grow big antlers. Here the primary crop is corn, and there are very few alfalfa fields or other crops that help bucks grow big antlers. Since the crops are usually harvested by the middle of October, when we go to the southern tier, very little grain is left on the ground for the deer and bears to eat. Primarily, they're feeding on native foods. 

But our favorite time to hunt the southern tier is at the end of rifle season. Generally, we hunt public lands. The weather is usually too cold for most hunters to want to get out and hunt at the end of rifle season. At night, the temperature will be around -20 degrees. During the day, the high may only be 30 degrees. So, cold weather usually keeps public lands from being overcrowded. Plus, we hunt the places most other hunters don’t want to hunt. Before we start hunting, we’ll go at least a mile or more back into the woods. Most public-land hunters usually will hunt within 1/4- to 1/2-mile of an access road. 

To stay warm, I wear an Under Armor base layer, and then a down jacket or a heated jacket. I work for a construction company, so I have to be out in cold weather throughout the winter. I’ve purchased a Bosch Tools battery-powered heated jacket that runs on a 12-volt rechargeable battery. That 1-1/2-pound jacket will keep me warm for 8 hours without the battery having to be recharged. Between my jacket and base layer, I wear Mossy Oak camouflage. We’ve found if we hunt in weather conditions that most other hunters won’t hunt in, and if we go deeper into the woods than most other hunters will go, we dramatically increase our odds for taking bears and deer that most other hunters won’t take. 

To learn more about hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone. 

For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from

Day 1: Frank Miskey on New York’s 15-Day Doe Harvests

Tomorrow: I Took a Shot at 273 Yards with My Muzzleloader

Latest Content