New York State hunters should be in for a good hunting season. 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.
As a result, the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs, or “doe tags”) will increase by 18 percent in 2013. In 2013, the Department of Environment Conservation (DEC) will be exploring the feasibility of expanding the Bonus DMP program by testing the impact of making existing Bonus DMPs valid for antlerless deer only, rather than for deer of either-sex as they had been previously. Results from the 2013 harvest will help inform DEC officials whether further refinements to Bonus DMPs are needed, including the possibility of making portions of the bow and muzzleloader seasons open for antlerless deer only in those WMUs where additional harvests are needed.
Last year hunters bagged 242,957 bucks and 123,969 antlerless deer, both increases over 2011 (when 228,359 bucks and 118,357 antlerless deer were harvested). Recent mild winters and a good spring fawn crop should result in hunters taking even more bucks in 2013, including more that are 2 ½-years old and older.
This year, new legislation allows the use of rifles for big game hunting, including deer hunting, in Ontario and Wayne Counties. Hunters should also note that the Deer Management Focus Area will continue to be in central Tomkins County, to help communities in the Ithaca area reduce their overabundant deer populations. And there is a mandatory antler restriction of at least three points on one side for WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S and 4W during all hunting seasons for hunters 17 years old and over.
There’s a plethora of public land available to hunt on, but you’re going to have to work to find a mature buck. Most public land hunters walk less than a half a mile from their vehicle, set up shop and wait for a deer to come by. Get off the beaten trail by trekking a mile or more into the wilderness to find deer that experience little hunting pressure. Heavy snowfall discourages a lot of hunters, so head to state land found in the northern counties to see fewer “orange pumpkins” sitting in deer stands.
For unit-by-unit harvest data and 2013 forecasts, go to http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/37304.html//.