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Public Input on Hunting Regulations

Hunting activities in New York State are governed by laws enacted by the New York State Legislature (located in the Environmental Conservation Law or "ECL") and by regulations or "rules" adopted by DEC (located in the New York Code of Rule and Regulations or "NYCRR"). DEC may advise the Governor and Legislature regarding possible law changes, but DEC does not have the authority to make changes to the ECL. To provide input on any hunting laws that exist in the ECL, contact your local member of the NYS Senate or Assembly.

To provide input on any hunting regulations being considered by the Department, the public generally has two opportunities to do this: during the formal "rule making" process and before that process begins.

Formal Rule Making Process

To be adopted and put into effect proposed hunting regulation changes must move through the State's formal rule making process as outlined by the State Administrative Procedures Act. This includes publishing the proposed rule or rule change in the State Register and a formal public comment period (generally 45 days) which provides opportunity for the public to submit written comments on the proposed regulation. At the end of the comment period, DEC reviews the comments submitted and then withdraws the proposal, modifies the proposed rule and republishes it for another round of public comment, or submits a final rule adoption package to the Department of State. The rule becomes effective upon publication in the State Register as an adopted rule.

See Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources Proposed, Emergency and Recently Adopted Regulations for any hunting-related items currently in the formal rule making process.

Informal Comments on Regulation Ideas Being Considered

Prior to initiating the formal rule making process, DEC routinely seeks informal input from hunters, hunting groups, and other stakeholders regarding their concerns or interest in potential changes to hunting regulations. In many situations, DEC uses scientific surveys to gather public opinion about potential rule changes. In other cases, we may communicate informally through e-mails, letters, or meetings in response to ideas we have as well as suggestions from others. DEC also invites public input on various game species management plans which often describe specific regulation changes being considered. In any of these situations, it is helpful to obtain informal feedback to gauge public interest and support, and to learn of any concerns that may exist, before we begin the formal rulemaking process. Below are some changes to hunting regulations that are currently under consideration, and we invite you to comment on any of these by the date(s) indicated.

Current changes to hunting regulations being considered

Keep in mind that these are preliminary ideas which may or may not be formally proposed at a later time. Also, DEC may formally propose rule changes that are not noted here, but as described above, those would be available for public comment when they are published in the State Register.

Possible Deer and Bear Hunting Regulation Changes for 2016:

Submit your comments by February 14, 2016 to any of the ideas below by sending an email todoe white-tailed deer wildlife@dec.ny.gov (use subject line: Possible deer and bear hunting changes for 2016).

  1. Idea: Modify regulations to allow junior hunters to take black bear as well as deer with a firearm during the Youth Firearms Deer Hunt during Columbus Day Weekend.
    Background Information: Currently 14 and 15 year old junior hunters participating in the Youth Firearms Deer Hunt may only take deer. Expanding the Youth Firearms Deer Hunt to include bear will provide opportunities for junior hunters and their mentors who are fortunate to encounter a bear.
  2. Idea: Reduce harvest of antlerless deer in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 6F and 6J in the Western Adirondacks by making the early muzzleloader deer season valid only for antlered deer in 2016.
    Background Information: Recent deer harvests in WMUs 6F and 6J have fallen well below long-term averages, and the harvest in both WMUs in 2014 was the lowest in recent times at 0.5 bucks taken per square mile. Winter weather conditions are a primary driver of deer abundance in these units, and the winters of 2013 and 2014 were especially harsh in this area. Though estimated harvests for 2015 are not yet available, preliminary reports suggest harvest likely declined again in the units. Modifying the season in these units would attempt to prevent further population decline and stimulate population growth.
  3. Idea: Rescind the antlerless-only rule implemented in 2015 during portions of the bow and muzzleloader deer seasons in WMUs 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A, and 9F. Work with hunters to identify a preferred and more effective process to increase antlerless harvest in these areas, including a possible new antlerless-only muzzleloader season, for implementation in 2017.
    Background Information: The 2015 rule change setting aside a portion of the bow and muzzleloader seasons as antlerless-only was implemented as Phase 2 of a 3-phase process to increase antlerless harvest, as outlined in Strategy 2.2.6 of DEC's Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2012-2016. Though final harvest estimates have not yet been calculated for 2015, review of the deer harvest reports submitted by hunters provides an early indication of harvest trends. Preliminarily, it appears that female take increased in several treatment WMUs (those with antlerless-only portions of the bow and muzzleloader seasons) and decreased in other treatment WMUs. However, considering all treatment units combined, changes in the harvest of female deer from 2014 to 2015 did not substantially differ between the treatment WMUs and nearby control WMUs (either-sex during bow and muzzleloader seasons). During the antlerless-only portion of the early bow season in 2015, reported take of female deer was essentially unchanged from 2014 in both the treatment and control units. Then, during the regular season and late bow/muzzleloader season, reported take of female deer declined from 2014 in both the treatment and control WMUs. Overall reported female take for the year declined from 2014 in both groups. From this preliminary assessment, the antlerless-only rule does not appear to have substantially improved our ability to reduce deer populations in the treatment WMUs as needed.
    Typically we prefer to maintain harvest regulations for a minimum of 2 years prior to assessment. However, because we do not have reason to expect a substantially different outcome in the future from preliminary results, and because the rule was unpopular with most hunters that provided input to DEC, we are considering rescinding the rule for 2016 and again allowing hunters in these areas to take deer of either-sex throughout the bow and muzzleloader seasons.
    Still, an alternative strategy must be implemented to increase antlerless harvest and decrease deer populations in WMUs 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A, and 9F. The deer management plan calls for implementation of a special antlerless-only season for muzzleloader hunters as a Phase 3 strategy. Details of this Phase 3 strategy have not been ironed out, and we are considering using the next year to discuss with hunters the best way to implement Phase 3, or an alternative strategy, in 2017 to effectively reduce deer populations as necessary.

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