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Buck Harvest Management

Consider Passing up Shots at Young, Small-antlered Bucks

image of Alexis Dekanek with her 2012 Herkimer County buck

Deer hunters in New York State have diverse views about buck hunting. Although many hunters have voiced a desire to reduce harvest of yearling (1.5 year old) bucks so they have a greater chance of taking an older buck with larger antlers, even more so, NY hunters value having the freedom to choose which buck they harvest and to practice voluntary restraint.

Though most NY hunters want to see more older bucks, hunters place more value on their freedom to take any buck.

To help DEC make objective decisions about possible buck hunting regulations, DEC worked with experts at Cornell University to develop a structured decision making process to evaluate potential buck hunting strategies in a way that accounted for regional variation in hunter values and the impacts of the strategies. Based on that study, DEC concluded that regulatory changes, such as expansion of mandatory antler restrictions, are not warranted at this time. Encouraging hunters to voluntarily pass up shots at young bucks best balances hunter interests across the state.

To learn more about DEC's decision process and outcomes, see:

If you want older bucks, don't shoot the young ones.

chart showing increasing trend of older bucks in NY's deer harvest

Many New York hunters are already choosing to voluntarily pass up shots at 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 (see chart). It is clear that the choices hunters make matter!

  • Many hunters are already participating in successful cooperative programs to voluntarily refrain from taking 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 may be reduced, but you may see these deer the following year as older bucks with larger antlers and more meat.
  • Having realistic expectations of what a voluntary antler restriction can accomplish is important to developing a successful program.
  • Generally in NY, bucks with 4 points or less are only 1.5 years old, but bucks that have 6 points or more are older (see chart).
  • In coming months and years, DEC will collect and provide additional data to help hunters as they practice voluntary restraint.

To see and take older, larger bucks, we encourage hunters to work with local hunting clubs and neighboring landowners to develop cooperative voluntary efforts to reduce harvest of young, smaller bucks.

Doesn't DEC already have a Mandatory Antler Restriction program?

DEC does have Mandatory Antler Point Restrictions in 11 Wildlife Management Units in southeastern New York. This program will continue as DEC encourages hunters elsewhere to practice voluntary restraint. Over time, as more and more hunters in the broader region opt to pass on young bucks voluntarily, hunters in the units with mandatory restrictions may be interested in seeing the restrictions lifted.

More about Buck Harvest Management: