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For Release: Monday, October 28, 2013

Statewide Deer Hunter Survey Underway

Survey Will Assess Hunters' Opinions on Deer Harvest Opportunities

Under Governor Cuomo's NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens today announced that a statewide deer hunter survey is underway in an effort to provide improved deer hunting experiences across the state. All who receive the survey are encouraged to take the time to complete and return it as soon as possible. The survey is being conducted for DEC by the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University.

"I encourage hunters and other deer management stakeholders to support our efforts to address yearling buck harvest strategies through a systematic and balanced process," Commissioner Martens said. "A high response rate to the survey will help ensure that the study findings are representative of all deer hunters across New York State."

During the development of the 2012-2016 deer management plan for New York, some hunters expressed strong interest in modifying hunting rules/regulations to allow more bucks to live to older ages and develop heavier bodies with larger antlers. As a result of that input, one of the objectives in DEC's current deer management plan is to "Encourage various strategies to reduce harvest of young (1.5 year old) bucks in accordance with hunter desires."

In addition to hunters voluntarily deciding not to shoot young bucks, managers could enact a variety of rules/regulations to reduce harvest of young bucks, all of which involve tradeoffs for hunters. For example, depending on the action taken to reduce harvest of young bucks, hunters may have to give up some freedom to shoot a buck of any age or size, or give up some opportunity to hunt bucks. DEC needs current information on hunters' views to understand how different buck harvest strategies may affect hunter satisfactions. Specifically, DEC needs to understand hunter's views on the importance of reducing harvest of young bucks relative to the associated loss of choice or loss of opportunity. This fall, DEC is sponsoring a statewide survey of hunters to provide that information.

In mid-October, Cornell University staff mailed questionnaires to a statewide random sample of 7,000 big game license holders with an invitation to participate in the survey. By gathering information on the relative importance hunters place on different types of deer hunting and harvest opportunities, the survey will help wildlife managers identify which buck management strategy best balances hunter opinions in various regions of the state.

DEC encourages all hunters who receive a questionnaire to complete and return it promptly. DEC requests to hear from every hunter in the sample, regardless of whether they went afield or took a deer last year. To maintain scientific integrity and preserve the random sampling survey design, DEC will not accept requests to participate in the survey.

Results of the survey will be used during 2014 to help evaluate a variety of buck harvest strategies through a "structured decision-making process". The basic elements of this approach were discussed in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 Hunting and Trapping guides, and are discussed further at Buck Harvest Management on the DEC website. DEC staff will consider survey results along with deer population management needs across various regions of the state as a basis for possible regulation changes for fall 2015.

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