Buck Harvest Management
What's Next for Antler Restrictions and Other Buck Management Options in New York?
In recent years, buck harvest strategies have been a divisive issue among deer hunters across the state. During development of the 2012-2016 deer management plan for New York, some hunters expressed strong interest in modifying hunting rules/regulations to allow more bucks to live to older ages and develop heavier bodies with larger antlers. As a result of that input, one of the objectives in DEC's current deer management plan is to "Encourage various strategies to reduce harvest of young (1.5 year old) bucks in accordance with hunter desires."
In addition to hunters voluntarily deciding not to shoot young bucks, managers could enact a variety of rules/regulations to reduce harvest of young bucks, all of which involve tradeoffs for hunters. For example, depending on the action taken to reduce harvest of young bucks, hunters may have to give up some freedom to shoot a buck of any age or size, or give up some opportunity to hunt bucks. Some strategies might achieve greater reductions in yearling buck harvest than others and some would impose greater loss of freedom of choice or greater loss of overall deer hunting opportunity. Additionally, each alternative might also affect overall deer population management, and some would further complicate our hunting regulations. Also, deer population status and hunter opinions vary across the state, so applying one harvest strategy across the entire state is likely not appropriate.
To address this complex issue, DEC has been developing a systematic process that will help managers make more informed decisions while accounting for regional differences in hunter desires and deer population status. DEC anticipates soon finalizing the SDM analysis and making recommendations for possible changes to buck harvest management based on the results. We will share those results with deer hunters throughout New York to determine the best course of action to implement.
To learn more, see the following articles and presentation about our the issue and decision process:
- Making Decisions for White-tailed Deer Buck Hunting in New York (PDF 245 kB). 2015.
- Yearling Buck Management: A Structured Approach for Decision Making (PDF PowerPoint presentation, 4.7 mB). 2013.
- Yearling Buck Management in New York (PDF 421 kB). 2013.
- Moving Forward: Antler Restrictions and Other Buck Harvest Strategies (PDF 176 kB). 2012.
Also, learn about New York's existing Mandatory Antler Point Restrictions.
Voluntary Antler Restrictions - An Option to Consider
Many New York hunters are already choosing to voluntarily pass young, small antlered bucks, and their efforts are making a difference! The availability and harvest of older, larger antlered bucks has increased substantially in recent years. It is clear that the choices hunters make matter.
- Many hunters are already participating in successful cooperative programs to voluntarily protect young bucks through an antler restriction of some form.
- Cooperative programs build community among hunters and landowners and actively engage participants in the deer management decisions for their hunting lands.
- Voluntary efforts provide the greatest program flexibility for landowners and hunting cooperatives.
- Protecting young bucks allows for more bucks to survive into older age classes.
- Having more bucks, including older bucks, in the population may increase marking behavior (rubs and scrapes) during the breeding season.
- By choosing not to harvest young bucks, your annual buck harvest rate will be reduced, but you may see these deer the following year as larger, older bucks.
- Having realistic expectations of what an antler restriction can accomplish is important to developing a successful program.
To see and take older, larger bucks, we encourage hunters to work with local hunting clubs and neighboring landowners to develop cooperative voluntary antler restriction programs.
More about Buck Harvest Management:
- Antler Point Restrictions in NY - Details of the existing antler point restriction in place in portions of Southeastern New York.