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Deer Hunting Season Forecasts

NYS Deer Forecast - 2017

image collage displaying buck take by age and desired deer population change in 2017

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

Excitingly, deer hunting has been changing in New York, with more hunters opting to voluntarily pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks. As a result, hunters are now taking more older bucks than ever before. That's good 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. Buck harvests are now comprised of roughly 50% yearling (1.5 year old) and 50% older bucks. Hunters can continue to push the harvest ratio solidly toward older bucks simply by choosing to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow and cooperating with your neighbors and hunting partners to do the same.

For the 2017-18 deer hunting seasons, we expect the statewide buck harvest to be similar or slightly higher than 2016 and a minor increase in antlerless harvest. Statewide, we increased the allocation of Deer Management Permits (DMPs; antlerless tags) by roughly 11% from the 2016 issuance. This increase in DMP availability reflects a general expectation that deer populations are poised to grow following two mild winters in a row. In many Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), including a broad along I-90 across central and western New York, population growth is undesirable, and we are liberalizing opportunity to harvest antlerless deer. In these areas, we encourage hunters to prioritize doe harvest, sharing extra venison with friends, neighbors and the Venison Donation Program (leaves DEC website). We encourage hunters to take does early in the season and to opt for a doe, or two, instead of a young buck.

In other WMUs, particularly in southern portions of Region 8 and Region 9 and parts of Southeastern New York, in the western Adirondacks, and in the western Catskills, we are continuing with conservative antlerless harvest, even decreasing target harvests in some units to foster population growth toward desired levels. Still, some doe harvest is appropriate in these areas, just not to the same degree as elsewhere.

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 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 WMU throughout the State. Unfortunately, only about 45% of successful deer hunters report their harvest.

Third, 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.

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 that deer populations are being managed at levels which encourage healthy and sustainable forests.

Help Protect NY 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 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:

  • 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 product safety testing for urine products. Choose synthetic alternatives.
  • 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.

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 7-9, 2017.

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).

As You Prepare for the 2017 Deer Hunting Seasons, be Aware of Several Key Items:

  • Legislation is pending that would affect the use of rifles for deer and bear hunting in Broome, Genesee, Orleans, Schenectady, and Seneca counties. Check Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas for the most up to date information.
  • Hunters in WMUs 6F and 6J may not take antlerless deer during the early muzzleloader season. This mirrors a rule that has been in place in WMU 6N for many years and in WMU 6A since 2015 and is intended to reduce antlerless harvest and allow modest population growth in these units.
  • 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
  • Many hunters continue to express interest in greater opportunity to use crossbows for big game hunting. Authority to modify crossbow use in New York rests with the Legislature, not DEC. However, DEC has recommended that crossbows be authorized for use during all seasons when other bows can be used and by all hunters who are eligible to hunt with a bow. To date, that recommendation has not been enacted by the Legislature. Crossbows may be used to hunt deer during the regular firearms season, late bow/muzzleloader season and a portion of the early bowhunting seasons. See Crossbow Hunting for license and training requirements, general rules, and season opportunities.

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.

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 from the list below, and you will be able to view a unit-by-unit forecast for the upcoming season.

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 Biologist

Unit-by-Unit Forecasts

Long Island - DEC Region 1 (PDF, 197 KB)
Southern Hudson Valley and Southern Catskills - DEC Region 3 (PDF, 730 KB)
Capital Region and Northern Catskills - DEC Region 4 (PDF, 1.1 MB)
Eastern Adirondacks - DEC Region 5 (PDF, 862 KB)
Western Adirondacks - DEC Region 6 (PDF, 678 KB)
Central New York - DEC Region 7 (PDF, 617 KB)
Western Finger Lakes - DEC Region 8 (PDF, 1.1 MB)
Western New York - DEC Region 9 (PDF, 1.1 MB)