A wilderness guide's advice on hunting the Catskills

Joseph D'Acunto of Black Dome Mountain Guide Service.

When learning any new skill, it's always wise to get good advice from a pro. That goes double for skills involving powerful firearms.

Joseph D'Acunto, a licensed hunting, camping and hiking guide who operates the Black Dome Mountain Guide Service and Rough Riders Ranch in East Jewett, has spent decades honing his skills as a hunter and tracker. As part of his service, D'Acunto teaches visitors not only how to track and hunt game, but how to properly dress an animal after taking the shot.

Not everybody picks it up right away, he says.

“I told this one individual that I'll help him take out the organs of this deer, but you have to be the one to take out the heart,” D'Acunto said. “After I said that, he froze. I looked at his face and he looked like he was going to pass out. Needless to say he wouldn't cut the heart out.”

Hunting in the Catskills has a long history among locals and visitors alike. Every fall, deer season brings droves of hunters to the region from downstate, many of whom could probably benefit from D'Acunto's expertise.

“I want you to get the feeling of what is going on here and learn about it,” D'Acunto said.

Many curious hunters enjoy the experience of hunting on horseback. D'Acunto leads hunting expeditions with the seasoned horses of his Rough Riders Ranch, as well as horseback camping trips for those who'd rather bring back a camera full of photos than a freezer full of venison.

Guides can also help those not used to the environment have a more enjoyable -- and educational -- outdoors experience. An experienced guide will know the region's sprawling trails intimately, understand the habits of local wildlife, know the history of the area, and be prepared to deal with the elements should things get dicey while out on the trail.

Having served in the military for 19 years, first in the Marines and then the Army, D'Acunto still uses the skills he learned overseas every day.

“I'm used to being outdoors,” D'Acunto said. “In the military you have to track down enemies -- so that's hunting. You have bushwacking while you're out there -- so that's camping. And usually you are marking different spots when you're outside -- so that's hiking. I thought I had the skills and qualifications to be a guide because of that.”

In D'Acunto's view, a good guide can make the difference between a great outdoors experience and one that takes an unfortunate, or even tragic, turn -- as sometimes those who visit the region are 'babes in the woods.'

“Every year my business grows through word of mouth, the internet and just hunters who hear about what I can do,” D'Acunto said. “I started in 2003 and have been doing it ever since.”

For more information on hunting the Catskills, see the New York State Department of Enviromental Conservation's guide to hunting in New York State, and their calendar of New York State hunting seasons.

Other wilderness, hunting and fishing guides in the Catskills region:

Catskill Outdoor Adventures

Baxter House River Outfitters

The Beaverkill Angler

Border Water Outfitters

Catskill Outback Adventures
Big Indian

Gone Fishing Guide Service

Peekamoose Adventures
West Shokan 

Oleh's Catskill Guide Service

Rivers Edge Anglers

West Branch Angler