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Destinations New York

Hunting Adirondack Whitetails

by Leo Maloney   |  April 29th, 2011 5

Deer densities might be lower in the Adirondacks due to lower food supplies, but hunting pressure is also nearly non-existent in its more remote reaches. Photo by Dusan Smetana/

The late autumn haze clung to the peaks of the higher mountains deep in the northeastern Adirondacks. As Tony Salerno scaled slowly up the steep slopes, he paused frequently both to scan the cover for deer and to rest from the effort it took. Making the hunt more difficult was the thick cover of young evergreens that blanketed the slopes near the top. But the buck sign — the rubs, scrapes and broken saplings — kept him going.

In many areas the young spruce grew so thick and the branches so intertwined that Tony had to crawl on his hands and knees to get through. During one of his rest stops, Tony spotted a notch in the steep ledge with an area of relative clearing around it. Thinking this would be a good place for deer to traverse, he decided to sit and watch the area for a while.

Within an hour and a half, Tony was encouraged to see several does and a yearling buck. Finally, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted movement of brown and the glimpse of antler tines above the thick spruce branches. Knowing he would have limited opportunity for a shot, Tony held his gun on a clearing. When the buck emerged in the small opening, he carefully squeezed off a shot.

The deer’s disappearance was followed by a crashing sound through the dead branches. After drawing a deep breath and carefully heading toward the area, Tony was elated to find the buck dead near the base of a nearby ledge. It was a large-bodied buck with a heavy 10-point rack and long tines that made all the long hours and effort worthwhile.

The Adirondack Mountains, located in northern New York State, form a rugged area of 6 million acres. Approximately half of it is state land that is “forever wild;” no logging, road building or other development is permitted. The High Peaks region in the northeast part of the Adirondacks contains the highest elevations and is characterized by tall mountains, steep rocky slopes and many bogs or swampy areas in between.

Deer densities are much lower than elsewhere in the state, due to lower food supplies. However, there are some large bucks in these remote areas that rarely see hunting pressure, due to the distance and difficulty of the terrain. Any deer taken in this part of the state is a trophy well earned.

Despite the difficulties of deer hunting in the Adirondack High Peaks area, Tony and Pat Salerno accept the challenge because of the large deer they find there. The typical buck does not have as large a rack as you would find in agricultural areas with richer nutrition. But the lack of hunting pressure allows them to live to old ages and grow larger. Their maturity and wariness makes hunting them a special challenge.

The brothers’ strategies start with hunting higher and farther from roads than the average Adirondack hunter. They know big bucks will seek out these areas to avoid hunters. Tony and Pat usually hunt as a two-man team, because few other people will make the effort and sacrifice to hunt the way they do.

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