Hunters killed approximately 243,000 deer during the 2012-13 hunting seasons, about 6 percent more than were taken the previous year, according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
“Deer hunting is a long-standing tradition in New York, providing shared recreation and a valuable source of food for many families,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Governor Cuomo’s NY Open for Hunting and Fishing initiative expands hunting opportunities statewide for sportsmen and sportswomen for the growing population of deer. This past year’s deer take reflects these efforts as well as deer population growth throughout much of the state.”
The 2012 deer take included approximately 124,000 antlerless deer (adult females and fawns) and an estimated 119,000 adult bucks. Increases were most pronounced in the Northern Zone where estimates of total take increased 15 percent from 2011. Estimated adult buck take of about 19,400 increased from 15,900 in 2011 and estimated antlerless take of 11,400 increased from 10,900 in the Northern Zone. In the Southern Zone, excluding Long Island, estimated adult buck take of 98,570 increased 6 percent and antlerless take of 110,900 increased 5 percent from 2011.
NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Increased Opportunities for Sportsmen and Women
Last year marked New York’s first Youth Deer Hunt, held over Columbus Day Weekend. During the Youth Deer Hunt, 14 and 15-year-old junior hunters could take one deer, antlered or antlerless, with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult mentor. Approximately 7,800 junior hunters participated in the Youth Deer Hunt, resulting in an estimated 1,411 deer taken of 744 adult bucks and 667 antlerless deer.
“The youth deer hunt was a success, and junior hunters and their mentors were very enthusiastic about the opportunity,” Martens said. “With greater awareness of this special opportunity in coming years, we expect the program to grow in participation and value for our hunting heritage.”
This year also marked the second year with crossbows as a legal hunting implement for deer. Legislation limited crossbow use to the regular firearms seasons and subsequent muzzleloader seasons. The crossbow authorization expired Dec. 31, 2012, so hunters could not use crossbows during the January firearms season in Suffolk County. Because of the legal limitations, relatively few hunters took crossbows afield, and the estimated take by crossbows was only 438 deer statewide, less than 0.2 percent of the total deer harvest.
New this year, was the Southern Zone bow season opening on Oct. 1. This change added 12 days of hunting for Southern Zone bowhunters. As expected, the additional 12 days of bowhunting opportunity seems to have dispersed hunter take over a slightly longer period. The estimated take by Southern Zone bowhunters was similar in 2012 (33,170) as in 2011 (33,900).
Hunting Rule Changes
In 2012, DEC adopted several hunting rule changes in accordance with DEC’s management plan for white-tailed deer (www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7211.html#DeerPlan). Changes and outcomes included:
— Deer Management Focus Area in Tompkins County. This new program intensified use of hunting to assist communities in the Ithaca area with the burden of overabundant deer populations. Results of the program are still being evaluated and will be posted at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/82382.html when complete.
— Mandatory antler restrictions were implemented in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W, prohibiting hunters from taking bucks that did not have at least one antler with 3 or more points. As expected, the proportion of yearling bucks (1.5 years old) taken in these units declined substantially from 49 percent in 2011 to 25 percent in 2012. With fewer bucks eligible for harvest, the estimated overall buck take in those units declined 26 percent (5,090 in 2012 versus 6,850 in 2011). Through most of New York, hunters can take a buck of any age, but many hunters are voluntarily choosing to take older bucks with larger antlers. This past year, 44 percent of harvested bucks statewide (51,950) were 2.5 years or older, compared to only 33 percent (45,350) in 2000 when New York’s deer population peaked, and 28 percent (33,000) in the early 1990s.
WNY and Finger Lakes Lead the Pack
Western New York and the Finger Lakes Region perennially lead the state in total deer-harvest densities, and deer take in 2012 remained true to form.
The top five counties for 2012 were Yates (16.0 total deer taken per square mile), Wyoming (14.6), Genesee (11.9), Cayuga (11.3), and Ontario County (11.2). Importantly, total harvest is strongly impacted by the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) available in an area, which affects the harvest of antlerless deer.
A more accurate picture of relative deer population densities is revealed by the density of buck harvest. By this figure, the top counties for buck harvest density are: Yates (5.9 bucks taken per square mile), Wyoming (5.8), Cayuga (4.6), Livingston (4.5), and Genesee County (4.4). Deer populations are above objective in all of these areas, and hunters are encouraged to take more antlerless deer to reduce deer populations toward desired levels.
Deer harvest data are gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required by all successful hunters, and DEC staff’s examination of harvested deer at check stations and meat processors. Statewide harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources.
Much additional information about the 2012-13 deer harvests is available on DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/42232.html.