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For Release: Friday, April 19, 2013

DEC: 2012 Deer Harvest Results Are Up From Last Year

NY Open for Hunting and Fishing Increased Hunting Opportunities

Hunters harvested approximately 243,000 deer during the 2012-13 hunting seasons, about 6 percent more than were taken the previous year, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens announced today.

"Deer hunting is a long-standing tradition in New York, providing shared recreation and a valuable source of food for many families," said Commissioner Martens. "Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative expands hunting opportunities statewide for sportsmen and sportswomen for the growing population of deer. This past year's deer take reflects these efforts as well as deer population growth throughout much of the state."

The 2012 deer take included approximately 124,000 antlerless deer (adult females and fawns) and an estimated 119,000 adult bucks. Increases were most pronounced in the Northern Zone where estimates of total take increased 15 percent from 2011. Estimated adult buck take of about 19,400 increased from 15,900 in 2011 and estimated antlerless take of 11,400 increased from 10,900 in the Northern Zone. In the Southern Zone, excluding Long Island, estimated adult buck take of 98,570 increased 6 percent and antlerless take of 110,900 increased 5 percent from 2011.

2012 Deer Harvest Comparison
2012 Total 2011 Total Previous 5-Year
Average (2007-2011)
Total Take 242,957 228,359 224,675
Adult Male 118,993 110,002 105,843
Antlerless 123,964 118,357 118,832
Adult Female 86,644 82,090 81,509
Deer Management
Permits Issued
605,105 534,207 525,839
Deer Management
Permit Take
94,367 87,439 87,359
Deer Management
Assistance Program
10,497 10,767 10,617
Muzzleloader 16,104 16,454 17,732
Bowhunting 36,208 36,323 33,765
Crossbow 438 491 -
Youth Hunt 1,411 - -

NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative Increased Opportunities for Sportsmen and Women
This year marked New York's first Youth Deer Hunt, held over Columbus Day Weekend. During the Youth Deer Hunt, 14 and 15-year-old junior hunters could take one deer, antlered or antlerless, with a firearm when properly accompanied by a licensed and experienced adult mentor. Approximately 7,800 junior hunters participated in the Youth Deer Hunt, resulting in an estimated 1,411 deer taken of 744 adult bucks and 667 antlerless deer.

"The youth deer hunt was a success, and junior hunters and their mentors were very enthusiastic about the opportunity," said Commissioner Martens. "With greater awareness of this special opportunity in coming years, we expect the program to grow in participation and value for our hunting heritage."

A full report of the 2012 Youth Deer Hunt and a Big Game Hunting Photo Gallery showcasing successful junior hunters is available on DEC's website.

This year also marked the second year with crossbows as a legal hunting implement for deer. Legislation limited crossbow use to the regular firearms seasons and subsequent muzzleloader seasons. The crossbow authorization expired December 31, 2012, so hunters could not use crossbows during the January firearms season in Suffolk County. Because of the legal limitations, relatively few hunters took crossbows afield, and the estimated take by crossbows was only 438 deer statewide, less than 0.2 percent of the total deer harvest.

New this year, was the Southern Zone bow season opening on October 1. This change added 12 days of hunting for Southern Zone bowhunters. As expected, the additional 12 days of bowhunting opportunity seems to have dispersed hunter take over a slightly longer period. The estimated take by Southern Zone bowhunters was similar in 2012 (33,170) as in 2011 (33,900).

Hunting Rule Changes
In 2012, DEC adopted several hunting rule changes in accordance with DEC's management plan for white-tailed deer. Changes and outcomes included:

  • Deer Management Focus Area in Tompkins County. This new program intensified use of hunting to assist communities in the Ithaca area with the burden of overabundant deer populations. Results of the Deer Management Focus Areas program are still being evaluated and will be posted on DEC's website when complete.
  • Mandatory antler restrictions were implemented in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W, prohibiting hunters from taking bucks that did not have at least one antler with 3 or more points. As expected, the proportion of yearling bucks (1.5 years old) taken in these units declined substantially from 49 percent in 2011 to 25 percent in 2012. With fewer bucks eligible for harvest, the estimated overall buck take in those units declined 26 percent (5,090 in 2012 versus 6,850 in 2011). Through most of New York, hunters can take a buck of any age, but many hunters are voluntarily choosing to take older bucks with larger antlers. This past year, 44 percent of harvested bucks statewide (51,950) were 2.5 years or older, compared to only 33 percent (45,350) in 2000 when New York's deer population peaked, and 28 percent (33,000) in the early 1990s.

WNY and Finger Lakes Lead the Pack
Western New York and the Finger Lakes Region perennially lead the state in total deer-harvest densities, and deer take in 2012 remained true to form. The top five counties for 2012 were Yates (16.0 total deer taken per square mile), Wyoming (14.6), Genesee (11.9), Cayuga (11.3), and Ontario County (11.2). Importantly, total harvest is strongly impacted by the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) available in an area, which affects the harvest of antlerless deer. A more accurate picture of relative deer population densities is revealed by the density of buck harvest. By this figure, the top counties for buck harvest density are: Yates (5.9 bucks taken per square mile), Wyoming (5.8), Cayuga (4.6), Livingston (4.5), and Genesee County (4.4). Deer populations are above objective in all of these areas, and hunters are encouraged to take more antlerless deer to reduce deer populations toward desired levels.

Deer harvest data are gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required by all successful hunters, and DEC staff's examination of harvested deer at check stations and meat processors. Statewide harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources. Much additional information about the 2012-13 Deer Harvests is available on DEC's website.

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