Following two mild winters, deer prospects looking good
By Jeremy Hurst
Big Game Biologist
New York State hunters will have ample opportunity to take deer this fall. With an exceptionally mild winter in 2011-12 and below average winter conditions in most of the state again in 2012-13, deer populations have grown despite generally increasing antlerless harvests the past few years.
In fact, deer populations throughout many portions of the state are currently in need of substantial reduction. Accordingly, we will be increasing Deer Management Permits (DMPs, “doe tags”) by about 18% this year. DEC issues DMPs to control antlerless harvest and move the population closer toward objective levels in each Wildlife Management Unit (WMU). To make your plans for this fall, review the 2013 chances of selection for DMPs in each WMU. And if you're curious to understand the DMP process a bit more, read how DMPs targets are set and permits are issued.
With recent population growth, we’re expecting the 2013 buck harvest to be up slightly from last year’s take. And with great fawn survival during the mild winter of 2011/12 and modest yearling buck harvests last year, we expect there will be a few more 2.5-year-old bucks running around this fall. That's good news for hunters who may have held off taking a small buck last ,year.
In fact throughout New York, many hunters are voluntarily choosing not to take young, small-antlered bucks, thereby allowing most of these bucks to live another year to gain some body weight and grow slightly larger antlers. Through the choices hunters make, we've seen a shift in our annual buck harvest to include an increasing number and percentage of older bucks. For hunters interested in seeing and taking older, larger bucks, we encourage you to consider voluntary protection of young bucks.
As you prepare for the 2013 Big Game season, which opens on Saturday, Nov. 16, be aware of several key items:
Mandatory antler restrictions (3 points on one side minimum) remain in effect in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W during all seasons for all hunters 17 years and older.
• Consider being a mentor for a young hunter. Shared experience with family and friends is one of the most cherished aspects of hunting. We encourage you to share that heritage with a young person in your life. With a mentor, junior hunters (ages 12-15) can hunt for big game with a bow and 14-15 year olds can hunt big game with a firearm. Also, unlicensed persons of any age can accompany you while you hunt, as long as they don't participate in the hunt. More details, including the required permission form, are on the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program webpage.
For the record
• Bowhunters may like to participate in the Bowhunter Sighting Log by keeping a diary of your bowhunting activity and number of animals you see. These data help DEC track deer and other wildlife populations. We could use more bowhunter participation in many northern, eastern, and southeastern counties including Westchester and Suffolk counties. To participate, please e-mail us and provide your name, address, hunter ID (back tag number), a list of the counties where you hunt, and whether or not you have participated in New York's bowhunter log in any previous year.
• Remember, Hunger Has A Cure ... The Venison Donation Program (link leaves DEC website) is a great way to help those less fortunate while also assisting with deer management in New York. With 120 cooperating venison processors in 50 counties, there are many outlets for you to donate a harvested deer. You can also donate a dollar or more anywhere licenses are sold - just tell the clerk you want to support Venison Donation. To locate cooperating processors or for more information on the Venison Donation Program, pick up a brochure when you purchase your license.
New York has a great diversity of options for deer hunters, with vastly different habitat types, an array of public hunting lands, and deer hunting opportunities that span four months. For hunters seeking solitude and freedom to cover lots of ground, the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York and Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York offer thousands of square miles of wilderness hunting. Good luck hunting this fall and enjoy your time afield in the Empire State.