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Deer Hunting Season Forecasts

NYS Deer Forecast - 2013

image showing desired deer population change (increase, decrease, stabilize) in each Wildlife Management Unit

New York State hunters will have ample opportunity to take deer this fall. 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.

Accordingly, we will be increasing Deer Management Permits (DMPs, "doe tags") by about 18% this year. DEC issues DMPs to control antlerless harvest and move the population closer toward objective levels in each Wildlife Management Unit (WMU). To make your plans for this fall, review the 2013 chances of selection for DMPs in each WMU. And if you're curious to understand the DMP process a bit more, read how DMPs targets are set and permits are issued.

In many areas, we expect the increase of DMP harvest to stop population growth and begin to move populations closer to desired levels. However in portions of southeastern New York, throughout the Lake Plains and northern Finger Lakes of central and western New York, traditional issuance of DMPs has become ineffective in lowering abundant deer populations. In these areas, DMP quotas are routinely unmet, and we are failing to achieve the antlerless harvests necessary to reduce populations. In these areas, we need to begin using new strategies to take antlerless deer.

DEC's Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2012-2016 outlines a 3-phase process to increase antlerless harvests.

Strategy 2.2.6: Where deer populations are above desired levels and DMP quotas may exceed applicant base, initiate a progressive and adaptive approach to increase antlerless harvest by: (Phase 1) expanding the use of Bonus DMPs; (Phase 2) making a portion of the early bowhunting season and late muzzleloading season valid only for antlerless deer; and (Phase 3) implementing a special antlerless-only season for muzzleloader hunters in these areas.

We have issued Bonus DMPs to successful hunters in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 1C, 3S, 4J, and 8C for nearly 2 decades. In 2013, we will be exploring the feasibility of expanding the Bonus DMP program (Phase 1) 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. Issuing antlerless-only Bonus DMPs could substantially reduce the workload associated with administering the program and potentially make expansion of the program possible. However, in the event that expanded use of Bonus DMPs proves too logistically costly to administer or unlikely to be effective, we must prepare for Phase 2 of the antlerless harvest strategy. Results from the 2013 harvest will help inform whether we should make further refinements to Bonus DMPs or whether we should consider making portions of the bow and muzzleloader season open for antlerless deer only in those WMUs where additional harvest is needed.

With recent population growth, we're expecting the 2013 buck harvest to be up slightly from last year's take. And with great fawn survival during the mild winter of 2011/12 and modest yearling buck harvests last year, we expect there will be a few more 2.5 year old bucks running around this fall. That's good news for hunters who may have held off taking a small buck last year. In fact throughout New York, many hunters are voluntarily choosing not to take young, small-antlered bucks, thereby allowing most of these bucks to live another year to gain some body weight and grow slightly larger antlers. Through the choices hunters make, we've seen a shift in our annual buck harvest to include an increasing number and percentage of older bucks. For hunters interested in seeing and taking older, larger bucks, we encourage you to consider voluntary protection of young bucks.

As you prepare for the 2013-14 hunting seasons...

  • Be aware of several key items:
    1. Youth Firearms Deer Season will occur over Columbus Day weekend, October 12-14, 2013.
    2. New legislation now allows use of rifles for big game hunting in Ontario and Wayne Counties, until October 1, 2015. See Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas for other areas where rifles can be used to hunt big game.
    3. The Deer Management Focus Area will continue in central Tompkins County to assist communities in the Ithaca area with the burden of overabundant deer populations.
    4. Mandatory antler restrictions (3 points on one side minimum) remain in effect in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W during all seasons for all hunters 17 years and older.
  • Consider being a mentor for a young hunter. Shared experience with family and friends is one of the most cherished aspects of hunting. We encourage you to share that heritage with a young person in your life. With a mentor, junior hunters (ages 12-15) can hunt for big game with a bow and 14-15 year olds can hunt big game with a firearm. Also, unlicensed persons of any age can accompany you while you hunt, as long as they don't participate in the hunt. More details, including the required permission form, are on the Junior Hunter Mentoring Program webpage.
  • Bowhunters may like to participate in the Bowhunter Sighting Log by keeping a diary of your bowhunting activity and number of animals you see. These data help DEC track deer and other wildlife populations. We could use more bowhunter participation in many northern, eastern, and southeastern counties including Westchester and Suffolk counties. To participate, please e-mail us and provide your name, address, hunter ID (back tag number), a list of the counties where you hunt, and whether or not you have participated in New York's bowhunter log in any previous year.
  • Remember, Hunger Has A Cure ... The Venison Donation Program (link leaves DEC website) is a great way to help those less fortunate while also assisting with deer management in New York. With 120 cooperating venison processors in 50 counties, there are many outlets for you to donate a harvested deer. You can also donate a dollar or more anywhere licenses are sold - just tell the clerk you want to support Venison Donation. To locate cooperating processors or for more information on the Venison Donation Program, pick up a brochure when you purchase your license.

New York has a great diversity of options for deer hunters, with vastly different habitat types, an array of public hunting lands, and deer hunting opportunities that span four months. For hunters seeking solitude and freedom to cover lots of ground, the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York and Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York offer thousands of square miles of wilderness hunting. For hunters seeking to maximize their success, the highest harvest densities routinely occur throughout western New York, but great opportunities also exist in suburban areas throughout the state. For hunters seeking the greatest prospects for large antlered deer, the lake plains portion of western New York is a good option. For hunters seeking to extend their time afield, deer hunting runs through the end of December in Westchester County (bowhunting only), and Suffolk County's special firearms season continues on weekdays through January.

Good luck hunting this fall and enjoy your time afield in the Empire State.

Jeremy Hurst
Big Game Biologist

Unit-by-Unit Forecasts

To help you choose your hunting locations, each Regional Deer Biologist has prepared a summary for their respective WMUs. Select the report from the list below for your desired portion of the state, and you will be able to view a unit-by-unit forecast for the upcoming season. You may also be interested in deer hunting seasons, deer hunting regulations, rifle and shotgun areas for the regular season, past deer harvest reports, and DEC's Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2012-2016.

image of NYS regions

Long Island, Hudson Valley and Southern Catskills - DEC Regions 1 and 3 (PDF, 666 kB)
Capital Region and Northern Catskills - DEC Region 4 (PDF, 744 kB)
Eastern Adirondacks - DEC Region 5 (PDF, 588 kB)
Western Adirondacks - DEC Region 6 (PDF, 593 kB)
Central New York - DEC Region 7 (PDF, 594 kB)
Western Finger Lakes - DEC Region 8 (PDF, 965 kB)
Western New York - DEC Region 9 (PDF, 737 kB)