New Hampshire Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

Over the last five years, New Hampshire has seen a decline in deer numbers--followed more recently by a partial recovery.

"The 2007 deer hunting season resulted in the second highest kill the state had ever had," said Kent Gustafson, deer project leader for New Hampshire's Fish and Game Department. "But the winter of 2007-2008 was one of the most severe in quite a while and the population began declining. Two of the following winters were also above average severity and resulted in further declines or slowed recovery."

Fish and Game reacted by limiting either-sex hunting opportunities. Mother Nature helped out with generally milder winters, including last winter.

"The winter of 2011-2012 was one of the mildest on record and winter survival was good," Gustafson said. "Deer also came out of winter in good shape and fawn production should be above average."

As a result, deer numbers have increased. In many southern areas of the state, Gustafson rates the deer as having "recovered" to pre-2007 levels. Recovered enough that this season, like last season, Fish and Game has allotted 4,000 Special Antlerless Deer Permits for Wildlife Management Unit M in southeastern New Hampshire.

And, while deer populations are below goal in many Wildlife Management Units, numbers continue to creep up.

New Hampshire hasn't had the drought other parts of the nation have experienced, and deer forage is good. Good enough to produce deer of 200 pounds or better from every management unit.

Your best chance at a big buck? The third week of November, which is when the peak of the breeding season usually occurs.

The Northeastern Regional Report
_A very mild winter (which followed a generally mild winter in 2010-2011) and average-or-better amounts of spring and summer rain this year have the Northeast region looking good this fall. States like Vermont and Maine are expecting improved harvests, as the easy winters have allowed deer herds to rebound. Except for a small pocket of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Hampshire County, West Virginia, and a limited outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in west-central New Jersey, deer here have no real health issues.

While there are still many good-size deer in the Northeast, trophy antler production has eased away from here and moved into the Midwest region. The Boone and Crockett Club's "Trophy Whitetail Production, 2005 to 2010," for example, doesn't list a single Northeastern state in the top 10. Pennsylvania, at number 20 (with 26 entries), is the highest-ranked state from this region.

That said, Northern states still grow big-bodied deer. "During the 2011 season, we had 124 bucks registered that, on the hoof, would have tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds," says Vermont deer biologist Adam Murkowski._

Top Trophy Zones**
NY: Monroe, Wayne, and Suffolk counties. Comprising the eastern two-thirds of Long Island, Suffolk County produces approximately half the state's Pope and Young records--including a 2006 buck that netted 196 2⁄8 non-typical.
NJ: Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Salem counties.
PA: Alleghany, Chester, Washington, and Beaver counties.
WV: McDowell and Wyoming counties.