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Antler Point Restrictions in NY

Antler Point Restrictions in Selected Wildlife Management Units

An antler point restriction is in place in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S and 4W in Southeastern New York. The antler restriction is designed to limit harvest of yearling (1.5 years old) bucks.

illustration of antler point restrictionMap of a section of NY showing special antler point restriction areas

Reports from the AR Program

Key Findings from the AR Program:

(excerpts from the summary report, June 2011)

  • The pilot AR program substantially reduced the proportion of yearling (1.5 year old) bucks in the harvest, and harvest composition shifted to older bucks.
  • The number of 2.5+ year old bucks in the harvest increased since implementation of ARs. The increase did not fully compensate for the reduction in yearling harvest, and total buck take generally remained >20% below pre-AR levels. WMU 3H was the only unit where buck take returned to the level immediately prior to AR.
  • ARs did not noticeably impact harvest of antlerless deer. Hunters also indicated that ARs had little influence on their willingness to harvest antlerless deer.
  • A shift in sex ratios of deer observed in the pilot AR units was apparent. A similar shift was observed in neighboring units without ARs.
  • ARs had no effect on hunter participation for the majority of hunters. Overall participation by non-local hunters appeared to decline because of ARs.
  • The impact of ARs on hunter satisfaction was mixed. Satisfaction with buck-hunting was generally higher in the pilot AR units than the surrounding region. Similar increases in buck-hunting satisfaction were observed in the surrounding region as occurred within the pilot area. More hunters reported being satisfied than dissatisfied with the level of protection afforded to young bucks and with the level of safety they felt in the pilot area. A majority of hunters reported being dissatisfied with (1) the number of antlered bucks compared to antlerless deer seen, (2) the number of older, larger-antlered bucks seen, (3) their opportunity to shoot larger-antlered bucks, and (4) the number of older bucks compared to the number of young bucks seen.
  • Hunter expectations for the pilot AR program were largely unmet.
  • A majority of hunters in the pilot AR units prefer that the program continue.
  • Deer management population indices were compromised by ARs. DEC must develop additional methods for monitoring deer populations to manage effectively with ARs.

What Should Hunters Expect from a Voluntary or Mandatory Antler Restriction Program?

Although programs using antler restrictions may have several effects on a deer herd, people should have realistic expectations on what they may see accomplished. Some changes will be obvious and others, if they occur, may be subtle and difficult to note in the field.

Buck Numbers, Size and Age

  • More young bucks surviving the hunting season and into the older age classes.
  • Higher overall buck numbers at the start of subsequent hunting seasons.
  • A large portion of each Fall's buck population would be young bucks that do not meet the minimum harvest criteria and therefore could not be harvested.
  • The extent of the age and size that some bucks obtain will depend on habitat quality, the specifics of the restriction implemented, and the degree to which hunters participate.

Breeding Behavior and Success

  • No significant change in breeding success or timing should be expected from reducing harvest of yearling bucks in New York. The timing of the rut is largely tied to seasonal changes (day length).
  • More bucks, including older bucks, may increase the amount of buck sign such as rubs and scrapes. While this may impact hunter satisfaction, these social factors of deer are not expected to noticeably impact the timing of deer breeding in New York.
  • Yearling (1.5 year old) bucks will continue to sire a substantial portion of the offspring despite presence of more older bucks.

Harvest Prospects

  • The population management goal for an area would not change, but herd composition and harvest opportunity would change.
  • Implementation of antler restrictions results in an initial period of significantly reduced buck harvest and somewhat lower buck harvest potential for the long term.
  • Hunters must be more selective and a portion of the bucks they see will have to be passed up.

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