Your Hunting Hotspot
Otsego County has the well-deserved reputation as a hunting hotspot. Our central location, abundance of state land, active DNR Office and well-informed local merchants will only enhance your experience.
Throughout the 106,000 acres of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, it’s common for hunters to set up backcountry camps of surplus Army tents heated by homemade wood stoves. It can be rough going but this is how some groups have enjoyed the Pigeon Forest since the days of black-and-white photography and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Whitetail deer, small game, ducks and geese are popular game and acre upon acre of state land leaves room for everyone. Be sure to check with the DNR office for seasonal information and regulations before heading out.
While whitetail deer are prevalent in the area, a successful hunt may require a bit of homework. Find areas traveled by deer, often in places where hardwoods change to evergreens or butt up to wetlands. Food sources like wild apple trees, small clearings and young aspen stands also attract deer. Numerous gas-well roads branching off backroads are good places to start, but those willing to walk just a mile or two more will have an edge over other hunters. While uncommon, elk are sometimes mistaken for deer. Be aware that elk are present in the northern part of the county.
Small Game & Upland Birds
Abundant public lands and dramatic shifts in elevation offer a mix of habitats for all kinds of small game.
To hunt squirrels, look for areas with mature oak trees whose acorns are a primary source of food. Red oaks are easily identifiable in late fall, when their reddish-brown leaves are still hanging on while all others have dropped. Ridges offer a good vantage point for still hunters to watch over a wide area so find a big oak, sit down, lean back and listen – the squirrels will show up eventually!
For ruffed grouse, find stands of young aspen trees – also called “popple” – bordering areas of mature hardwoods. These successional forests, often found in timbered areas, attract both grouse and woodcock because of the dense cover they provide and for the wild berries that often grow among the aspen.
Rabbits are often hunted in lowlands and river valleys where cover is most dense. Cedar, alder and blowdowns make for great habitat for rabbits but tough going for hunters. Snowshoes are definitely recommended!
For a first-hand account of grouse hunting in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, read Brandon Butler’s article on Driftwood Outdoors.
Ducks & Geese
Otsego County is far from the flights of migratory ducks which stick to coastal areas of the Great Lakes when they make their exodus southward but waterfowl hunters will still find mallards and wood ducks in small ponds and pothole lakes. Hunting is best the first half of the season as most ducks will have moved on by November.
Goose hunters will find big flocks in fields of soybeans and cut corn. Some farmers consider these birds pests so don’t be afraid to pay a visit in the summer and ask for permission to hunt come fall.
Hunting seasons run from September all the way to March. Even if you are not hunting, it’s a good idea to wear blaze (hunter) orange or other brightly colored clothing while in the woods to make yourself seen where hunters may be present. Dogs should also wear a collar and bright bandanna or handkerchief for their safety.
The DNR website lists expectations of hunters during firearm hunting seasons.