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Deer Hunting Season Forecasts

2018 New York State Forecast

history of buck age distribution in harvest

With deer hunting seasons that span four months, vastly different habitat types, and nearly 4 million acres of public land to be explored, New York State offers unique opportunities for hunters to pursue white-tailed deer.

Deer hunting is changing in New York as many hunters are choosing to voluntarily Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow. The results are clear - older bucks are making up an increasing portion of our deer harvest. In fact, in 2017 over 53% of the adult bucks taken across the state were 2.5 years old or older. That's great news for New York hunters and their families, because the average 2-year-old buck generally yields 25-30% more meat and carries antlers twice as large as the average yearling. Hunters can continue to push the harvest ratio solidly toward older bucks by cooperating with your neighbors and hunting partners to let young bucks go.

graphic showing effect of age on buck size

2018-2019 Deer Hunting Season

For the 2018-19 deer hunting season, we expect the statewide buck harvest to be similar to 2017 and the antlerless harvest to increase slightly. Statewide, we increased the allocation of Deer Management Permits (DMPs; antlerless tags) by roughly 8% from what was issued in 2017, with most of the increased DMP availability occurring in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in central and western New York where deer populations are either above desired levels or increasing toward desired levels.

map of severity of 2017-18 winter

Though the 2017-18 winter stretched into April in many parts of the state and some areas had snow on the opening day of Spring Turkey season, the index for winter severity wasn't excessive. We had a few reports of some fawn mortality after the March snowstorms, but these were very localized. So overall, we are expecting another good season for NY deer hunters.

For greater detail on what is happening with the deer population in your area, check out the Unit-by-Unit Forecasts assembled by our regional big game biologists.

Hunters are Crucial to Protect our Deer from Chronic Wasting Disease

Hunters should take the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) very seriously! CWD is always fatal to deer. If introduced, CWD could spread rapidly and be practically impossible to eliminate once established, threatening the future of New York's deer population, hunting tradition, and many of the other benefits associated with deer. The most effective disease management strategy is to prevent CWD from entering New York. Hunters can help protect New York's deer herd from CWD by following these tips:

  • If you hunt any type of deer, elk, moose or caribou outside of New York, debone your animal before bringing it back, and follow the law about importing carcass parts from outside of New York. See CWD Regulations for Hunters. DEC will confiscate and destroy illegally imported carcasses and parts.
  • Avoid natural deer urine products. Prions are shed in the bodily fluids (saliva, feces, urine) of infected deer before they appear sick. Prions bind to soil and plants where they remain infectious for years. There is no way to ensure that urine products are free of prions. Choose synthetic alternatives.
  • Dispose of carcass waste in a landfill, not out on the landscape.
  • Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles.
  • Report any deer that appears sick or acting abnormally.

Help Make Deer Management Successful

First, focus on antlerless harvest where DMPs are available and population reduction is needed. For deer hunting to remain relevant and be valued by the broader public, hunters must demonstrate willingness and ability to reduce deer populations to levels that are socially and ecologically compatible.

Second, report your harvest. It's important for deer management and it's the law. Hunters are the only source of two critical pieces of harvest information - when and where deer are taken. These data are used, together with reporting rates, to estimate the number of deer harvested in each town, county, and Wildlife Management Unit throughout the State. In 2017, about 50% of successful deer hunters reported their harvest, which was a nice increase from the 45% level seen in recent years. Still, New York hunters have a long way to go to demonstrate that they take seriously their responsibility to Take It · Tag It · Report It.

Third, make the most of your hunting by helping DEC track deer and other wildlife populations. If you are a bowhunter, we welcome your participation in the Bowhunter Sighting Log. Keep a diary of your bowhunting activity and the number of animals you see for your records and ours.

You can also become an AVID (leaves DEC website) volunteer by collecting information about how deer are impacting the woodlands in which you hunt. These data will help our biologists ensure deer populations are being managed at levels that encourage healthy and sustainable forests.

Changes Coming to Deer Population Objectives

This past spring, we began phasing in a survey-based process for gathering information on citizens' preferences on deer population levels. We mailed the survey to a random selection of citizens in about one third of the state this year and will survey the rest of the state in 2019. The survey asks respondents about their deer-related interests and concerns, how they would like to see the deer population in their area change over the next several years, and how important deer management issues are to them. We intend to use the survey results, in combination with data on deer impacts on forest regeneration, to guide whether deer populations should increase, decrease, or stay the same in each Wildlife Management Unit Aggregate. If this work proceeds as expected, we should have new population targets in place before the 2019 hunting seasons.

Because deer can have profound and long-lasting negative impacts on forest ecosystems and personal property, keeping these impacts at a sustainable level is a top priority of our deer program.

Be a Mentor

Shared experience with family and friends is one of the most cherished aspects of hunting. We encourage you to share that heritage by mentoring 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. The Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt includes the option for 14-15 year olds to take bear as well as deer with a firearm during Columbus Day weekend, October 6-8, 2018.

Consider Using Non-Lead Ammunition

When lead and lead-core bullets strike a deer, hundreds of tiny lead particles scatter throughout the tissue-up to 18 inches from the wound. Some of these fragments are too small to be seen, felt, tasted, or removed. These lead particles can ruin the quality and yield of game meat and pose a risk to human consumers and scavenging animals. DEC encourages deer hunters to use alternative non-lead ammunition (see Ammunition: Non-lead or Lead? for more information).

Looking for a Place to Hunt?

Hunters seeking solitude and freedom to cover lots of ground will enjoy the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York and the Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York, which offer thousands of square miles of wilderness hunting. Hunters who want to maximize their success should explore the western Finger Lakes Region or seek access to hunt public or private lands in and surrounding various suburban areas throughout the state. For hunters seeking the greatest prospects for large-antlered bucks, the Lake Ontario Plains of western New York is a good option. Finally, for hunters seeking to extend their time afield, deer hunting runs through the end of December in Westchester County (bowhunting only) and through January in Suffolk County.

Additionally, you may find the following links helpful for your planning:

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

Jeremy Hurst
Big Game Unit Leader

Unit-by-Unit Forecasts

Long Island - DEC Region 1 (PDF, 177 kB)
Southern Hudson Valley and Southern Catskills - DEC Region 3 (PDF, 951 kB)
Capital Region and Northern Catskills - DEC Region 4 (PDF, 1.2 MB)
Eastern Adirondacks - DEC Region 5 (PDF, 885 kB)
Western Adirondacks - DEC Region 6 (PDF, 897 kB)
Central New York - DEC Region 7 (PDF, 719 kB)
Western Finger Lakes - DEC Region 8 (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Western New York - DEC Region 9 (PDF, 1.4 MB)