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2009 Public Meetings on Deer Management

A female hunter posed behind the buck she shot in 2008 in Columbia County
Columbia County, 2008

NYSDEC is interested in changes to the deer program that will enhance our ability to manage deer considering the many differences in regional deer populations, habitat conditions, and social interests. We recognize that there are many stakeholders interested in New York's white-tailed deer resource and that there are many challenges to successful population management. To help us prioritize the issues that are most important to NYS deer hunters and the public, we held a series of public meetings in September and October 2009.

Meeting Presentation and other Materials

2009 Deer Program Update (PDF, 2.8 mb) For those who could not make our scheduled meetings, you may view the presentation here.

Poster of DEC Deer Reproductive Study (PDF, 923 kb) Preliminary results of a 3-year research project to determine rates and timing of deer breeding in New York.

Poster of the Foraging Ecology of Coyotes in New York State (PDF, 1.7 mb) Preliminary results of a multi-year project conducted by researchers at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to estimate coyote densities and quantify coyote kill and scavenge rates on deer.

Poster about Antler Restrictions in New York (PDF, 975 kb) DEC encourages hunters interested in protecting young bucks and seeing older, larger bucks to work with local hunting clubs and neighboring landowners to develop cooperative voluntary antler restriction programs.

Poster displaying Deer Program Suggestions - Preliminary Issues Identified by Hunters (PDF, 1.2 mb) Preliminary input from hunters and various organizations regarding their suggestions for changes to the New York Deer Program.

Meeting Attendance and Public Input

  • 20 meetings were held across New York State
  • Over 1,000 hunters and others with an interest in deer management attended
  • Public input was gathered via comment forms at the meetings, by mail and by e-mail

Priority Topics

In summarizing the public comments received from our fall meetings and other avenues of recent input, we have identified seven priority topics which generated the most interest:

Priority topics with predominantly uniform opinion

  • Further reduce hunting age requirements and provide a youth deer hunt
  • Improve hunter access
  • Promote habitat management

Priority topics with diverse opinion on preferred approach

  • Provide crossbow hunting opportunity
  • Manage buck harvest through regulatory or non-regulatory measures
  • Adjust the regular season length and timing
  • Expand bowhunting and muzzleloader hunting opportunities

Steps

  1. DEC will explore specific issues that emerged during the fall meetings through a formal survey of NY hunters in cooperation with Cornell Human Dimensions Research Unit (HDRU). In particular, we will concentrate on assessing hunter preferences for potential strategies that may provide crossbow hunting opportunity, alter buck harvest management, and modify deer hunting season structures. This survey will be conducted in 2010.
  2. DEC will develop a five year deer management plan in 2010 that reflects management needs, public priorities, and other input that is consistent with deer management goals.

As we explore options to address the priority topics and other input received, we must consider how potential changes may enhance our ability to manage diverse deer populations and provide greater equity of opportunity among deer hunting user groups. An underlying concern related to any proposed actions, is to maintain a level of simplicity in hunting regulations.

Summary of Public Input

The following comments do not necessarily reflect the position or interest of DEC but rather summarize the public input we received during the 2009 Public Meetings on Deer Management. Comments are not listed in any particular order.

Youth Opportunities

Implement a 2-day youth season prior to regular season
Reduce age restrictions for bowhunters and firearms hunters to 12 or younger
Give youth an extra non-transferable tag
Make regular season tags for youth hunters valid for deer of either-sex
Provide a free license for junior hunters
Do not create a youth season - reducing age to 14 was enough

Access

Increase access for all terrain vehicles on state lands; Don't increase vehicle access on state lands
Improve private land access
Increase liability protection
Charge other state land user groups an access fee to benefit the Conservation Fund
Expand and improve access for hunters with disabilities
Develop incentives for landowners to allow hunting
Improve on-line DEC maps of state lands

Habitat

Improve habitat conditions on state lands and right-of-ways
Allow logging on State Forest Preserve lands
Incorporate more input from resident forest landowners into deer management decisions
Provide more education or incentives for habitat management on private lands
Incorporate ecological data into deer management objectives

Northern Zone Seasons

Expand antlerless opportunities
Shorten the Northern Zone regular season
Start the Northern Zone bowhunting season in early September
Run Northern Zone bowhunting season longer; start the muzzleloader and regular season later and shorten regular season

Southern Zone Seasons

Regular Season

Keep unchanged
Return to Monday opener
Start regular season the Saturday before Thanksgiving
Shorten the regular season
Have 1 week break (no hunting) between bowhunting and regular season
Start regular season on November 1 and lengthen the season

Bowhunting Season

Run the late bowhunting season into January
Start the bowhunting season in mid-late Sept.; start Oct. 1; start Oct. 15; start Saturday before Columbus Day
Make part of the bowhunting season antlerless-only or earn-a-buck
Allow bowhunting during the last 4 days of September with previous year's tags
Don't start bowhunting season Oct. 1, it conflicts with turkey hunters' time
Allow bowhunting in Suffolk County during January season
Shorten bowhunting season to allow more time for small game hunters

Muzzleloader Season

Create an early muzzleloader season for primitive muzzleloaders the week before regular season (in conjunction with an Oct. 1 start to Southern Zone bowhunting season)
Start Southern Zone bowhunting season on Oct. 1 and create a 1-week early muzzleloader season also beginning Oct. 1.; both seasons antlerless-only during this week
Expand muzzleloader season through all bowhunting seasons
Any early muzzleloader season should not be primitive-only
Expand late muzzleloader season until the end of Dec. or into Jan.
Create a primitive muzzleloader season in mid-late Sept.
Don't put early muzzleloader season right before gun season
Make all late seasons antlerless-only

Buck Management

Promote voluntary protection of young bucks
More education about Quality Deer Management philosophy and practices
Provide a second regular season buck tag for the Southern Zone after a buck has been taken in the Northern Zone
Implement an earn-a-buck program in areas of high deer populations
Focus on alternatives to mandatory antler restrictions to reduce harvest pressure on bucks:
- Reduce the buck bag limit to 1 buck per hunter per year
- Start the regular season later and shorten the season
- Make Bonus Deer Management Permits valid for antlerless deer only
Implement mandatory antler restrictions:
- Mandatory antler restrictions statewide or in some subset of the state
- Keep the current opportunity for 2 bucks, but require the 2nd buck to meet some antler restriction
- Only implement mandatory antler restrictions on private land; Only implement mandatory antler restrictions on state lands
- Split some units into antler restriction and non-antler restriction portions
- Do not implement mandatory antler restrictions
- Mandatory antler restrictions should be exception not the rule
- Any mandatory antler restrictions should include an exemption for youth; or an exemption for youth and seniors

Implements and Hunting Laws

Reduce the minimum distance for legal discharge of a bow
Allow crossbows:
- All ages, all seasons
- Seniors and hunters with disabilities
- not during early bow season; only during bow season; separate season in December
Do not allow crossbows
Allow baiting
Change shooting hours to ½ before sunrise and ½ hr after sunset
Stop Sunday hunting altogether or stop at noon to avoid conflict with non-hunters

Licenses, Tags, Reporting

Lengthen the time frame for reporting
Hunters should be required to report whether they were successful or not; tie reporting to ability to purchase next year's license
Create a combination license with bowhunting, muzzleloader, trapping, fishing, big and small game and turkey privileges
Eliminate either-sex tags
Allow market hunting and the sale of venison
Provide separate Northern Zone and Southern Zone buck tags; hunters buy either or both
Get rid of back tag requirement
Make the "buck tag" an either-sex tag
Allow tags to be printed from a home computer
Revise Deer Management Permits (DMPs)
- Make it easier for successful hunters to continue to be successful
- Issue DMPs in all Northern Zone units
- Provide residents of a Wildlife Management Unit with greater preference for DMP selection in that unit
- Allow DMPs to be used in more than one area
- Expand consignment to more than 2 DMPs
- Do not allow antlerless harvest by bowhunters and muzzleloader hunters in units without DMPs
- Provide DMPs for all first time hunters regardless of age
- Reduce the acreage requirement to be eligible for a landowner DMP
- Eliminate DMPs; Go back to "Doe Days"
Revise the Deer Management Assistance Program( DMAP)
- allow 4 permits per hunter instead of just 2
- DMAP for custom deer management should pay $10 per tag

Urban and Suburban Deer Management

Increase hunting access on town, county and state parks, land conservancies, and DEC lands
Increase bowhunting opportunities in suburban and urban areas
Create a service to link landowners with hunters
Establish an earn-a-buck program in bowhunting-only areas with season extensions
Establish "urban WMUs" with special regulations and extended seasons

Education

Increase hunter education classes and provide compensation for instructors
Provide greater levels of training for hunters
Hold more deer meetings
Hold programs in schools
Educate the non-hunting public about the need for and safety of hunting
Promote public involvement in deer management
Help landowners determine correct deer populations for their lands
Increase DEC communication with hunters

Enforcement

Increase law enforcement staff and effort to catch poachers and trespassers
Increase penalties for game violations
Enforce proper use of the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) and Deer Damage Permits (DDPs)
Start "Neighborhood Watch" programs to assist ECOs
Ensure that hunters report their deer

Deer Damage

Require all deer taken on Deer Damage Permits (DDPs) be donated to the Venison Donation Program
Landowners should pay for DDPs
Provide DDP reports online; more information about the program
Increase site inspections
DDP agents should be hunters
Reimburse landowners for deer damage instead of using DDPs

Other

Increase coyote hunting
Reduce deer numbers to reduce Lyme disease
Stop all bowhunting
Survey hunters for data on hunter effort
Allow feeding
Have Citizen Task Force (CTF) meetings in all WMUs; Eliminate CTFs
Advocate for Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources budget allocation from General Fund
Reduce size of Wildlife Management Units
Venison Donation should be partly funded by NYS; more processors

Common Questions from the Public Meetings

Hunters from across the state repeatedly asked questions about several topics in particular.

Q: Why does DEC let farmers shoot deer out of hunting season? How does this impact the deer population?
A:
Depending on the type, severity and timing of the damage, DEC provides landowners the option of participating in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) or using Deer Damage Permits (DDPs) to control deer numbers. DMAP permits can be issued for crop damage, forest management, custom deer management, or to protect special plant communities. DMAP is typically preferred by the Department as the permits can only be used during open hunting seasons and can afford additional hunting opportunities to local hunters. However, in many cases, property damage from deer occurs well prior to hunting season and waiting to remove the problem deer is not an appropriate option. DDPs are most commonly issued for crop damage, but the Environmental Conservation Law (§11-0521) allows for broader application where deer are causing damage to public or private property. DDPs may also facilitate deer removal from areas where traditional hunting is not feasible. DDPs generally allow harvest of antlerless deer only and require the shooters and permit holder to agree to and comply with a list of specific conditions that govern when and how deer may be taken. Most DDPs are issued for removal of 5 or fewer deer. All deer killed must be tagged and reported to DEC, and every effort is to be made for the meat to be utilized.

Deer Damage Permits can and are designed to reduce the local deer population on a property that is receiving damage. However, deer do not observe property boundaries, and when an individual property or several properties succeed in reducing deer numbers, the effect may also be apparent on immediately adjoining lands. This may lead to a misconception that damage abatement procedures are affecting the deer population at large. In reality, DEC issues relatively few DDPs to landowners. In 2008, less than 4% of New York farms received DDPs. The 1,247 DDPs issued resulted in 4,070 deer reported taken. For comparison, New York hunters received 557,673 Deer Management Permits (doe tags) in 2008 and took an estimated 117,232 antlerless deer during hunting seasons. The impact of DDPs on statewide or regional deer populations is negligible.

Occasionally, DEC receives reports of permit abuse, and we take these complaints very seriously when the abuse can be verified. If you have information on illegal killing of deer, please report it to our Division of Law Enforcement Dispatch (1-877-457-5680) as soon as possible after witnessing the violation.

Q: Why doesn't the DEC allow crossbows to be used for hunting in New York?
A:
Crossbows are not currently allowed to be used for hunting in New York due to specific prohibitions contained in the Environmental Conservation Law (the only exception provides for a special permit available only to persons with disabilities that would prevent them from releasing a modified long bow, in which case they may qualify to use a crossbow modified for breath-release). For crossbows to become legal hunting implements, a bill would need to pass both houses of the Legislature and be signed into law by the Governor and either specify circumstances for which crossbows could be used, or provide the DEC with regulatory authority to do so.

DEC supports efforts to allow the use of crossbows. In recent years, the DEC's legislative initiatives have included proposals that would provide some form of crossbow hunting opportunity, including a bill in 2008 that would have allowed use of crossbows by those over 65 years of age or a permanent disability preventing use of regular archery equipment. Legislators have also introduced other bills that would provide opportunities to hunt with crossbows. To date, none of these have passed. If you wish to track the progress of legislation of interest or contact your representatives, you will find the New York State Assembly website (leaves DEC site) to be a useful source for contact information and legislative status.

Q: What is the status of antler restriction programs in New York?
A:
DEC currently has a pilot antler restriction program operating in four Wildlife Management Units in southeastern New York. We will complete a summary report of the pilot program, including continued assessment of hunter attitudes and behaviors in 2010. Additionally, the input we received this past fall from hunters and non-hunters about their priorities for deer management will help guide recommendations for future program changes.

While interest among hunters for alternative approaches to buck harvest management appears to have grown in recent years, most of the discussion has focused solely on mandatory antler point restrictions. This topic has become controversial among New York hunters, and an underlying issue is that some hunters want everyone to comply with a particular hunting standard so that they can see and possibly take more older bucks, while other hunters don't want to be restricted on their harvest opportunity. DEC would like to broaden the discussion with New York hunters to look at new strategies that may reduce harvest pressure on young bucks without substantially restricting hunters' freedoms. Ultimately, as more and more hunters take personal and cooperative initiative to voluntarily protect young bucks, we will continue to see a greater proportion of older bucks in our harvest.

Q: Why doesn't DEC do more habitat management on state lands?
A:
New York has one of the largest percentages of both state land and state-managed conservation easements in the United States with some 4.6 million acres managed by DEC. While many hunters would prefer that all state lands are managed solely to promote optimal wildlife habitat, DEC manages its lands for a variety of purposes including watershed protection, recreation, forestry, ecosystem protection, open space conservation, and protection of wildlife habitat.

Of DEC managed lands, about 63%, more than 2.6 million acres in the Adirondacks and more than 300,000 acres in the Catskills, are held as "forever wild" lands protected by Article XIV of the New York State Constitution. The Forest Preserve has exceptional scenic, recreational, and ecological value, though the Constitution specifically prohibits the sale, removal, or destruction of timber from the Forest Preserve. Thus, DEC cannot alter these forests to create the conditions preferred by many game species.

About 17% of DEC managed land is State Forest and another 16% is comprised of private Conservation Easements. On many of these lands, DEC's Division of Lands and Forests uses timber management as a tool to enhance biodiversity and to create habitat features that might be lacking in the landscape. Other portions are managed to protect and enhance rare, threatened or endangered species. Unit Management Plans are developed with public review to guide the management activities within individual State Forests.

The remaining 4% of DEC managed lands are held as Wildlife Management Areas. On these lands - including more than 124,000 acres of upland and 53,000 acres of wetland - DEC's Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources (DFWMR) manages specifically to promote wildlife habitat and wildlife recreation. Annually, DFWMR conducts a variety of habitat improvement projects including timber harvest, mowing and brush hogging, seeding and planting, burning, fruit tree release, water level control, and invasive vegetation control.