Provision From Nature
FISHING and HUNTING
In this area, it’s not realistic to think that you can live entirely off the land unless you are a farmer. But it is practical and reasonable to augment your pantry, freezer, and diet with nature’s bounty and New York State encourages you to do so. You can dine without fear of agribiz additives. But whatever the animal you eat ate, you will too. So, avoid toxic waste sites and runoff.
Hunting Game: The assortment of animals for which you can obtain a hunting license is still longer than those that are threatened or endangered, and some are so plentiful they are pests. The groundhog, rabbit, fox, squirrel, coyote, deer—all are legally susceptible to the bullet, pellet and arrow. So too is the ravenous brown bear, more frequent in our area lately, and so easy to shoot it is a shame to call this hunting. Game birds are a similar story. Grouse, pheasant, turkey, woodcock, ducks, geese, and the like offer sport enough and good eating.
Note that you can’t shoot just anything. “In New York State,” says the DEC, “nearly all species of wildlife are protected. Most species, including endangered species, songbirds, hawks and owls, are fully protected and may not be taken. The few unprotected species [that is, plentiful and probably pests] include porcupine, red squirrel, woodchuck, English sparrow, starling, rock pigeon, and monk parakeet. Unprotected species may be taken at any time without limit.”
“There are ten species of furbearers that may be hunted: coyote, bobcat, raccoon, red fox, gray fox, opossum, skunk, weasel, mink, and muskrat. Mink and muskrat may only be hunted under special conditions.“
You need a state hunting license, and the correct one. For example, “A hunting license is required to hunt unprotected wildlife with a bow, crossbow, or firearm.”
Various restrictions apply about hours, sometimes days, weaponry (rifle, shotgun, pistol, muzzleloader, crossbow, bow, compound bow), and projectile (approved and forbidden arrows, shot sizes, bullet sizes, number of bullets in a magazine [max six], and arcana such as whether a rifle is allowed during deer season for non-deer hunting (no, we think, but a .17 might be).
“The only turtle species for which there is an open hunting season is the snapping turtle. You may not harvest, take, or possess any other turtle species at any time.” Nor may you “harvest, take, or possess any native snakes, lizards, or salamanders at any time.”
Let’s not leave the meat section without reference to roadkill. Chefs swear by fresh roadkill, so do gourmands of game. This is beyond our expertise but here are several trustworthy sources:
- Speaks for itself: livescience.com/roadkill-safe-to-eat
- An entertaining Wikipedia entry
- A good how-to-prepare from wikihow
Fishing: With certain pride, New York’s DEC states, “We offer many exciting opportunities to fish with more than 7,500 lakes and ponds, 70,000 miles of rivers and streams, and hundreds of miles of coastline.”
Each year the DEC stocks around 2.3 million catchable-size brook, brown, and rainbow trout in hundreds of lakes and ponds and roughly 3,100 miles of streams. About 1,300 miles of these have 33-foot state easements that allow fishing access to the water.
Larger ponds and lakes that aren’t full of weeds, lilies, or foreign invaders such as milfoil or the especially pernicious zebra mussels often make for wonderful fishing, and the state’s fish and game officers enthusiastically stock many of them annually with bass and trout and other tasty fish they are trying out.
Fishing in any body of New York water unless you own it requires a state license. If you fish a lot in different waters, the best deal is probably the Empire Pass, good for a year and currently $80 online. Short-terms passes are widely available at outdoor-gear shops and country stores.
Foraging: Frugivores and herbivores happy to do their own foraging will find many wild treats in New York fields and forests in season, for example various berries, fungi, and tree fruit. Likewise vegetables and herbs. Check out Euell Theophilus Gibbons for guide books on foraging and feasting.
For more information, the Department of Environmental Conservation is the reliable source in New York State for all things natural.