Deer Management Coalition Blasts State Agency Decision

The New York State Whitetail Management Coalition strongly disagrees with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) decision to halt the expansion of a policy to protect yearling bucks and better manage the state’s deer population.

New York deer hunters, like in other states, are passionate about their ideas. Despite perceptions elsewhere, New York turns out some big bucks. Patrick Rogerson shot this awesome New York nontypical that rough scored at nearly 200 inches. Wow!

Patrick Rogerson shot this awesome New York nontypical that rough scored at nearly 200 inches. Wow!

The New York State Whitetail Management Coalition, which represents nearly 10,000 hunters statewide, says DEC’s decision to halt the expansion of broader antler restrictions to better protect yearling bucks hurts New York’s overall deer population, the quality of deer hunting in New York, and the state’s hunting economy.

“DEC’s decision to halt the expansion of a proven, progressive deer management policy is both troubling and perplexing, said David Hartman, President of the NYS Whitetail Management Coalition. “We have been working with DEC and the last four administrations to slowly phase in progressive, proven deer management policies and laws that are good for the deer and hunters. Now, with no logical rationale, DEC puts the breaks on the progress we have made over the last two decades. They are ignoring their own findings and seventy percent of New York hunters.”

The DEC recently presented a yearling buck management plan that fails to expanded antler restrictions statewide to protect yearling bucks. The DEC ignored their original plan that supported broader antler restrictions statewide; and instead, is choosing to maintain the status quo. DEC is calling for optional self-policing, or “voluntary restraint” as DEC calls it, for hunters in areas of the state that do not fall under specific wildlife management areas with the broader, more effective, three-point antler restrictions.

Currently New York has two different standards for managing yearling bucks. The first is the old standard from 1912 that says you can shoot a buck with at least one three inch spike, which is a yearling. The second is the progressive approach being used successfully in certain wildlife management areas of the state, which requires a buck to have at least three or more one-inch antler points on one side before it can be killed, which protects more than 80 percent of yearling bucks from harvest. The Whitetail Management Coalition is advocating for a statewide approach that closely mirrors the second standard.

“From a healthier herd, to meatier deer, to better overall deer hunting, the advantages of three-point antler restrictions to protect yearling bucks are numerous,” said John Rybinski, President of the Central New York Quality Deer Management Association. “Improved deer hunting in New York will have a positive impact on the economy by bringing in new tourism dollars. The state has spent over ten years studying this issue, and the data is clear, it is time for New York to adopt a proper statewide yearling buck protection program.”

DEC is reversing course on the administration’s progressive approach and reverting to a century-old and outdated method of deer management by keeping the three-inch antler spike regulation in place in most areas of the state. DEC’s decision not only prevents New York from having a healthier, more natural deer herd, it is contrary to what a majority of New York hunters want. In addition, it will only ensure that New York continues to rate as one of the worst states in the nation for deer hunting.

A major reason New York consistently rates as one of the worse states in the nation for deer hunting is that most of the bucks harvested, more than 50-percent, are immature yearling deer – the equivalent of a twelve-year old boy. States with a higher percentage of adult male bucks rate much higher, as bigger bucks make for better hunting and a higher quality herd. Neighboring states, such as Vermont and Pennsylvania have broader antler restrictions statewide and rank higher than New York for deer hunting.

“The decision is perplexing because in an earlier Structured Decision Making report drafted by the DEC, the agency actually agreed with the need for and recommended statewide antler restrictions,” continued Hartman. “Instead, the DEC has ignored its findings, and issued a report that supports the status quo and rejected the need for changes even though antler restrictions for yearling buck protection has the support of prominent wildlife biologists, the majority of NY hunters and has proven to be successful in New York and over twenty other states including Vermont and Pennsylvania.”

The three-inch antler spike law has been in place since the early 1900’s. This antiquated approach has allowed for the killing of far too many yearling bucks and produced an unhealthy deer population. In human terms, New York’s current law allows and encourages hunters to kill the equivalent of a twelve-year old boy. New York’s deer population is akin to having a society made up of a range of females from one to sixty-years old and a few males over the age of twelve.

New York has successfully protected yearling bucks by implementing three-point antler restrictions in some areas of the state, including parts of Delaware, Greene, Sullivan, Schoharie and Ulster counties — it is now time to institute a proper statewide yearling buck protection program.

“Broader antler restrictions are a sound, scientific and progressive approach to yearling buck protection and deer management. It respects the natural balance of the deer population, protects the hunter’s rights and improves the overall quality of deer hunting,” concluded Hartman. “It is our hope that the DEC will strongly reconsider its decision and do the right thing for New York’s hunters, deer herd, and taxpayers.”



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