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Deer Hunting Season Forecasts

NYS Deer Forecast - 2016


map depicting desired direction of deer population change in 2016 by Wildlife Management UnitNew York State offers a wonderful 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 the 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 through the western Finger Lakes Region, and great opportunities also exist in 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. 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 runs through January.

New York hunters should anticipate seeing a few more deer this hunting season compared to last year. Many of these deer will be young animals, as conditions were excellent for overwinter fawn survival and production this spring. Too, the 2015 deer harvest appeared slightly depressed by the combination of ample mast and unusually warm weather during the regular firearms season which reduced daytime movements of deer and reduced hunter success. So, with slightly greater survival through last year's deer season, good food supply, and a very easy winter, we expect that the deer population is poised to rebound from the harsh winter of 2014-15 quite well and antler growth to be above average this fall.

On the whole, we expect the buck harvest to be similar or slightly higher than 2015, while the antlerless harvest may drop a bit, as we reduced the allocation of Deer Management Permits (DMPs; antlerless tags) by roughly 9% from the 2015 issuance. The minor reduction in DMP availability reflects a continued conservative approach for antlerless harvest in many Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) where we would like to allow deer populations to increase and where winter was particularly severe in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Also, in a handful of WMUs where deer populations are larger than desired but showing progress declining toward objective levels, we reduced DMP allocations to keep pace with population changes. Hunters will still have ample opportunity for DMPs in these units, but there may not be quite as many tags leftover after the initial application period. Additionally, new this year, we are reducing antlerless harvest in WMUs 6F and 6J by prohibiting the take of antlerless deer during the early muzzleloader season in those units as has been the case in WMUs 6A and 6N.

In contrast, deer populations continue to be above desired levels across portions of central New York, the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario Plains and in Suffolk and Westchester counties, and we encourage hunters in these areas to prioritize harvest of antlerless deer, sharing extra venison with friends, neighbors and the Venison Donation Program. In several WMUs in these areas, DEC implemented a controversial rule in 2015 which limited part of the bow and muzzleloader seasons to antlerless harvest only. We have now rescinded that requirement, as reported harvest of female in 2015 deer did not differ substantially between the WMUs with the antlerless-only periods and nearby WMUs without the rule. Instead, we have been getting feedback from hunters about alternative strategies for the future to increase antlerless harvest, such as a possible special muzzleloader season in select WMUs.

Of course, deer population dynamics and management strategies vary in each WMU. So to help you choose your hunting locations, our Regional Big Game Biologists have prepared a summary for their respective WMUs. See the Unit-by-Unit Forecasts linked at the bottom of this page.

Want Older Bucks in New York? It's Your Choice!

A buck in the forest
Photo by Charles Alsheimer

With an abundance of young deer around this year, hunters can make a difference for next year by choosing to pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks. For New York bucks to grow bigger bodies and larger antlers, they simply need to age. Older bucks create more rubs and scrapes; they are more challenging to hunt, and they yield more meat - all things that may enhance your deer hunting experience. Many New York hunters are already voluntarily choosing to pass young, small antlered bucks. As a result, the availability and harvest of older, larger antlered bucks has been increasing. To see and take more older bucks, choose not to harvest young bucks.

Help Protect NY Deer from Chronic Wasting Disease

Though we have found no new cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in New York deer since 2005, hunters should continue to take the threat of CWD very seriously. CWD is always fatal to deer. If introduced, CWD could spread rapidly and will be practically impossible to eliminate from the wild deer herd once established. Preventing CWD from entering New York is the most effective disease management strategy. Hunters can help protect New York's deer herd from CWD by following these tips:

  • Do not use deer urine-based lures or attractant scents.
  • If you hunt outside of New York, debone or quarter your deer before bringing it back, and follow the law about importing carcasses or carcass parts from outside of New York. See CWD Regulations for Hunters.
  • Dispose of carcass waste in a landfill, not just out on the landscape.
  • Report any deer that appears sick or acting abnormally.
  • Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles.

Get Involved in Deer Management

First, report your harvest. It's important for deer management and it's the law. Hunters are the sole 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. Unfortunately, only about 45% of successful deer hunters report their harvest.

Second, make the most of your hunting by helping DEC track deer and other wildlife populations. If you are a bowhunter, we invite you to participate in the Bowhunter Sighting Log. Keep a diary of your bowhunting activity and number of animals you see for your records and ours. We also send a Big Game Hunting Log to a random sample of 11,000 hunters each year to collect data on hunting effort, success, and sightings of deer, bear and moose. If you receive this log, your participation provides valuable data for monitoring big game trends.

DEC also relies on volunteers to provide helpful information for management of furbearers and upland game birds by participating in other sighting and hunting surveys. Learn more about other opportunities to contribute to Citizen Science: Wildlife Observation Data Collection.

Be a Mentor

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. The Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt now includes the option for 14-15 year olds to take bear as well as deer with a firearm during Columbus Day weekend, October 8-10, 2016.

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).

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, our Regional Big Game Biologists have prepared a summary for their respective WMUs. Select the PDF report 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.

Long Island - DEC Region 1 (PDF, 146 kB)
Southern Hudson Valley and Southern Catskills - DEC Region 3 (PDF, 418 kB)
Capital Region and Northern Catskills - DEC Region 4 (PDF, 486 kB)
Eastern Adirondacks - DEC Region 5 (PDF, 303 kB)
Western Adirondacks - DEC Region 6 (PDF, 301 kB)
Central New York - DEC Region 7 (PDF, 296 kB)
Western Finger Lakes - DEC Region 8 (PDF, 442 kB)
Western New York - DEC Region 9 (PDF, 386 kB)