EAST REGIONAL

Empire whitetails, Hunting the far south corner in Massachusetts, Public-access in New Jersey, Partridge in Vermont, Pheasants in Pennsylvania and more.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Empire Whitetails
Opportunities abound for bowhunters

**NEW YORK **With the third-highest bucks-per-square-mile ratio (6.5) in the state in 2001, wildlife management unit 9P percolates with good whitetails. And as luck, or maybe good planning, would have it, smack in the middle of the unit is Rattlesnake Hill wildlife management area. Rattlesnake's 5,100 acres sit adjacent to another 2,600 acres of state forest to the southeast. A bowhunter could spend a week here without covering the same ground twice or crossing paths with another hunter.

The majority of land sits in southern Livingston County, with about a third spilling into northern Allegany County. The habitat is a blend of mature hardwoods, old-growth apple orchards, conifer plantations and overgrown fields-plenty of the stuff whitetails favor. Braided with dirt roads and dotted with parking areas, Rattlesnake, like all of New York's WMAs, has very good access. The majority of the access roads are drivable to a point, then barricaded and restricted to boot leather.

Rattlesnake, eight miles west of the town of Dansville, is within a two-hour drive south of either Rochester or Buffalo. The archery season at Rattlesnake, which is in New York's southern zone, runs October 15 to November 17.

Contact: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, region 8 (585-226-2460; www.dec.state.ny.us). -T.R. Hendrick

A Watershed Running With Deer
Muzzleloaders should head to the heart of the forest

MARYLAND If you're a muzzleloader hunter here, you can place a pretty sure bet on a large chunk of forestland owned by the city of Frederick. Situated just northwest of the municipality on Catoctin Mountain, the 7,300 acres surround Frederick's water supply. The huge tract has a sizable deer population, and it's not surprising that Frederick County led the state in muzzleloader harvest last year, as well as total harvest for all seasons.

Within the forest, some of the highest concentrations of whitetails can be found along the western rim of Catoctin, where the watershed lands border Cunningham Falls State Park. But smokepole shooters looking to get away from the crowds should hunt the hardwood-lined ridges in the heart of the forest, on either side of Fishing Creek Road, near the headwaters of Little Fishing Creek.

An effective strategy is to hunt this interior region of the watershed during archery season in an effort to pattern the movements of deer, and then use this knowledge to choose stands for blackpowder season that take advantage of a muzzleloader's range. The first split of the October muzzleloader season in region B runs from October 17 to 19, with both antlered and antlerless deer being legal. The second split is October 24 to 26, for antlerless deer only.

You can access Cunningham Falls State Park via Route 15 (south of Catoctin) to Catoctin Hollow Road. Or take Mountaindale Road west of Mountaindale to Gambrill Park Road, which parallels Little Fishing Creek.

Contact: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, MD 21401; 877-620-8367). -Jon Farley

Sleeper Zone
Hunt the far south corner

MASSACHUSETTS The bow season here now runs a full six weeks throughout the state-from October 14 to November 23. The deer herd has reached an all-time high, and big-racked bucks roam in every deer management zone (DMZ).

Everyone knows that DMZ 11 is a hot bet. But the sleeper is DMZ 3, a chunk of the far southwestern corner of the state. Deer are plentiful and good-size, hunting pressure is light and public land is abundant and accessible.

Beartown State Forest, Mount Washington State Forest and Sandisfield State Forest together total nearly 23,000 acres of prime deer country in DMZ 3. Starting this year, an antlerless deer permit is needed foall seasons for antlerless deer. Contact: MassWildlife, field headquarters (508-792-7270, ext. 121). -Tom Fuller

Archery Nirvana
A place where the bowhunter rules

WEST VIRGINIA Last year, Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties-West Virginia's contiguous archery-only counties-produced 70 bucks that scored high enough for the Pope and Young Club record book. That level of productivity should continue this year.

Try 18,000-acre Berwind Lake WMA in McDowell County or the 17,280-acre R.D. Bailey Lake WMA in Mingo and Wyoming counties. Smaller, but still productive, are the 12,854-acre Laurel Lake WMA in Mingo County and McDowell County's 10,640-acre Panther State Forest. Coal and timber companies own much of these areas but don't always post them clearly, so check your maps.

Contact: West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (304-558-2771). -John McCoy

Public-Access Bright Spot
Archers can find a way in to their deer

**NEW JERSEY ** Although there are plenty of deer, including some bruisers, in Somerset County, there are relatively few spots where a bowhunter can take aim without gaining access to private lands. There is, however, one public opportunity that shines through-the Six Mile Run reservoir site within the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park. Here, within the site, you can hunt a 3,000-acre mix of wetlands, forests, farmlands and old fields (about one third of the entire site). Hunting is open to the public for bowhunting only during the fall-bow, permit-bow and winter-bow seasons.

The Six Mile site used to be leased by farmers so they could control deer, but it was opened to the public after it was obtained as part of the state park. There are, however, sections of the tract that are closed to hunting, so interested bowhunters need to get a map of the affected spots. There are about five parking areas around the park itself, but there is no main entrance or exit point.

Contact: Somerset Park Office (732-873-3050). -Oliver Shapiro

Perfect Partridge
Ruffs get the heart pounding

VERMONT I get my necessary adrenaline rush by hunting birds in New England. Up here, "birds" mean ruffed grouse, or partridge to natives like me. I'm most at home in Vermont's Orange County, where the hills roll away from the Connecticut River. On rare occasions I'll see a bird before he flushes. But most often I don't, and when his explosive take-off jolts me the adrenaline kicks in. I take pride about once in five tries at swinging toward the sound, getting a bead on the blur of feathers and dropping the bird.

I've hunted behind some fine Brittanys but prefer to go one on one with the birds. If you do too, search those isolated, abandoned field edges or gnarled apple trees deep in the woods. Or traipse along a brushy brook bottom and then meander down an old logging road.

Contact: Call the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department (802-241-3700) for its "Hunt Vermont" map and information packet. -T.F.

**Grouse Come First, Pheasants Next **
Upland hunters can mix their bag with just a short drive

PENNSYLVANIA Bird gunners should head out for Huntingdon County for a good doubleheader. The Jim Bashline wildlife habitat management area in the southwestern corner of the county, by Raystown Lake, consists of more than 900 acres managed for ruffed grouse. Focus on the networks of small clear-cuts and tracts of early successional growth, most of which can be found along the west side of the lake. Other productive areas can be accessed from Route 26 near Hesston. And once pheasant season opens on November 2, hunters can split their time between chasing grouse and pursuing stocked ringnecks in Raystown's area 420, along Route 26 past the Hesston intersection.

Contact: Pennsylvania Game Commission, South-Central Region (814-643-1831). -J.F.

**Connecticut **
Cockaponset Toms: For high densities of wild turkeys, hunt Cockaponset State Forest. This sleeper destination offers 15,000 acres scattered over 20 plots in nine towns south of Middletown. Hunting pressure is light in the fall and the birds are scattered in good numbers throughout the area. Contact: Franklin WMA (860-642-7239).

Coastal Deer: Put the bow and the surf rod in the car, and head for deer management zone 12. This zone stretches from the Rhode Island border to Milford and includes three quarters of the towns along the Connecticut coast. Whitetails abound here. Access is a problem, but residents are accepting hunters as necessary to control deer numbers, so ask around. Contact: Franklin WMA (860-642-7239).

Key Dates
October 19-November 2: Fall turkey firearms season.
October 19: Small-game seasons open (pheasants, ruffed grouse, chukar, quail, cottontail rabbits, European hares).

Delaware
Muzzleloader Hot Spot: Early-season muzzleloaders should try the 3,500-acre Norman G. Wilder wildlife area near Petersburg. This area holds good whitetail populations because of numerous cornfields and soybean fields found within the area. Focus on hardwood-rimmed edges of swampy bottomlands. Contact: DDFW (302-739-5297).

Blackbird Squirrels: Hunters who like squirrel potpie should hunt Blackbird State Forest. Covering 4,800 acres on the New Castle/ Kent County border, much of the forest is dotted with stands of mast-producing oaks and hickories, prime habitat for bushytails. Before November, shotguns, .22s and muzzleloaders up to .36 caliber may be used. Starting November 1, only shotguns are permitted. Contact: DDFW (302-739-5297).

Correct Dates: Several incorrect dates have been published in the Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide regarding deer-stand lotteries for shotgun seasons. The correct season dates for state wildlife management areas are November 15, 16, 18 and 23 and December 14 and 15 and January 18. Correct dates for Brandywine Creek State Park are December 17, 18 and 19.

Key Dates
October 11: Gray squirrel season closes.
October 12-19: Muzzleloader deer season.
October 21: Gray squirrel season reopens.

Maine
Oxford Ruffs: Maine grouse hunters know that some of the best coverts are found in southern Oxford County, along the New Hampshire border. Old orchards, small clear-cuts and newly abandoned farmland provide superb cover in these rolling hills. Look to the towns of Fryeburg, Brownfield, Porter and Hiram for the best birds. Contact: MDIFW (207-287-8000).

Somerset Bruins: Black-bear adventures await in Somerset County. Because Somerset is one of the state's longest north-and-south-running counties, beartral Region (814-643-1831). -J.F.

**Connecticut **
Cockaponset Toms: For high densities of wild turkeys, hunt Cockaponset State Forest. This sleeper destination offers 15,000 acres scattered over 20 plots in nine towns south of Middletown. Hunting pressure is light in the fall and the birds are scattered in good numbers throughout the area. Contact: Franklin WMA (860-642-7239).

Coastal Deer: Put the bow and the surf rod in the car, and head for deer management zone 12. This zone stretches from the Rhode Island border to Milford and includes three quarters of the towns along the Connecticut coast. Whitetails abound here. Access is a problem, but residents are accepting hunters as necessary to control deer numbers, so ask around. Contact: Franklin WMA (860-642-7239).

Key Dates
October 19-November 2: Fall turkey firearms season.
October 19: Small-game seasons open (pheasants, ruffed grouse, chukar, quail, cottontail rabbits, European hares).

Delaware
Muzzleloader Hot Spot: Early-season muzzleloaders should try the 3,500-acre Norman G. Wilder wildlife area near Petersburg. This area holds good whitetail populations because of numerous cornfields and soybean fields found within the area. Focus on hardwood-rimmed edges of swampy bottomlands. Contact: DDFW (302-739-5297).

Blackbird Squirrels: Hunters who like squirrel potpie should hunt Blackbird State Forest. Covering 4,800 acres on the New Castle/ Kent County border, much of the forest is dotted with stands of mast-producing oaks and hickories, prime habitat for bushytails. Before November, shotguns, .22s and muzzleloaders up to .36 caliber may be used. Starting November 1, only shotguns are permitted. Contact: DDFW (302-739-5297).

Correct Dates: Several incorrect dates have been published in the Delaware Hunting and Trapping Guide regarding deer-stand lotteries for shotgun seasons. The correct season dates for state wildlife management areas are November 15, 16, 18 and 23 and December 14 and 15 and January 18. Correct dates for Brandywine Creek State Park are December 17, 18 and 19.

Key Dates
October 11: Gray squirrel season closes.
October 12-19: Muzzleloader deer season.
October 21: Gray squirrel season reopens.

Maine
Oxford Ruffs: Maine grouse hunters know that some of the best coverts are found in southern Oxford County, along the New Hampshire border. Old orchards, small clear-cuts and newly abandoned farmland provide superb cover in these rolling hills. Look to the towns of Fryeburg, Brownfield, Porter and Hiram for the best birds. Contact: MDIFW (207-287-8000).

Somerset Bruins: Black-bear adventures await in Somerset County. Because Somerset is one of the state's longest north-and-south-running counties, bear