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Buck Hunting

slogan graphic encouraging voluntary restraint: 1.5 years=110 pounds, 2.5 years=140pounds, 3.5years=180pounds

Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow!

Every year, tens of thousands of NY hunters enjoy the opportunity to bring home a handsome 2.5-year or older buck, while about half of the antlered bucks taken in NY are only 1.5 years old (yearlings). Yearling bucks generally weigh about 20% less and have 50% smaller antlers than they would as a 2.5-year-old.

The primary reason New York doesn't have more older, larger-antlered bucks in the harvest is because many get taken as yearlings. But the good news is that this is changing and hunters are now taking more older buck than ever before. Hunters can continue to push the harvest ratio solidly toward older bucks simply by choosing to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow.

You Can Change Your Deer Hunting Experience

For NY bucks to get bigger bodies and larger antlers, they simply need to get older.

Older bucks are more challenging to hunt and yield more meat for the successful hunter. These bucks create more rubs and scrapes and vocalize more - all things that add to the hunting experience.

As more hunters choose to pass young bucks, all hunters will enjoy the opportunity to see and take more older bucks.

Many New York hunters are already choosing to pass up young bucks.

Take Action
  • Choose to let young bucks walk.
  • Improve the habitat by creating young forest and enhancing natural forage and cover for deer.
  • In many areas, taking an antlerless deer instead of a young buck would help meet overall management goals and bring the deer population into better balance with the habitat, which in turn improves deer condition.
  • Work with your neighbors and hunting partners to cooperatively reduce harvest of young bucks, meet your antlerless harvest goals, and improve habitat conditions.
decline in yearling percentage of harvest
Decreasing harvest of young bucks
is an unmistakable trend.

Learn the Differences between Yearling and Older Bucks

Nearly all bucks in New York with 4 points or less are only 1.5 years old. In central and western New York or other high quality habitat areas, about 30% of yearlings have 5-6 points and 15% have 7-8 total antler points. However, the overall size and shape of their antlers remains small, with antler spreads generally less than 12 inches, well inside the ear tips.

Three photos showing the increased height and girth of bucks between 1.5 years and 3.5 years of age
These bucks from Washington County, NY demonstrate typical age-related differences in body size and antler growth.
(Photo courtesy of the National Deer Association)

Yearling Buck Older Buck
Body Size similar to adult doe larger than adult doe
Legs appear long and skinny appear more stocky due to deeper chest
Muscles often not clearly defined well defined in shoulders and thighs
Body Shape slender, belly tucks up belly flat or even sagging
Antlers thin, spread narrower than ear tips spread almost as wide as ear tips on 2.5-year-old, wider if older

After the shot, check out the teeth of your deer to see whether it is a yearling or older buck. See DEC's Guide to Aging Deer in New York (PDF).

Have Realistic Expectations of Bucks in New York

While many hunters want the opportunity to take bigger bucks, the bucks frequently shown in magazines, on TV shows, and on hunting-related products are rare in the wild. To help hunters better understand what buck populations look like in New York and have realistic expectations of what they might encounter afield, in 2015 and 2016 DEC collected additional antler measurements from 2,176 bucks across the state. The picture is clear; when hunters choose to let young bucks go, they do grow - with antlers nearly doubling in size from 1.5 to 2.5 years of age.

Bar graph showing the Estimated Boone and Crokett Score by Buck Age Class in New York

Average Adult Buck in New York
Age Total
Inside Spread
Main Beam Length
Gross B & C Score
1.5 4 8.5 9.8 47
2.5 7 13.5 15.4 90
≥ 3.5 8 15.5 18.1 110

Evaluation of Other Buck Management Options

In recent years, some hunters have expressed strong interest in increasing the number of older, larger-antlered bucks in our deer population. This could be accomplished through a variety of regulatory and non-regulatory approaches. New York hunters have divided opinions about buck hunting and many greatly value having the freedom to choose what type of buck to harvest. DEC worked with experts at Cornell University to evaluate various buck hunting strategies (e.g. mandatory antler point restrictions, 1-buck-per-hunter rule, shorter season, voluntary restraint) in a way that accounted for regional variation in hunter values and the impacts on harvest, population management, and hunter satisfaction. Based on that study, DEC concluded that regulatory changes are not appropriate or most compatible with hunter values. Encouraging hunters to voluntarily pass up shots at young bucks best balances hunter interests across the state and is now our management direction. For more information see PDF links below.

Antler Point Restriction in NY

Mandatory Antler Restriction Program

Antler Point restriction diagram

DEC does have mandatory antler point restrictions in 11 Wildlife Management Units in southeastern New York. This program will continue as DEC encourages hunters elsewhere to practice voluntary restraint. Over time, as more and more hunters in the broader region opt to pass on young bucks voluntarily, it may be appropriate to lift the restrictions.

To learn more about DEC's buck management decision process and outcomes, see:

Antler Point Restrictions in Selected Wildlife Management Units

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

You may only use your antlerless tags (Bow/Muzzleloading or DMPs) for female deer or bucks with antlers less than 3 inches. You may not use an antlerless tag on a buck with antlers greater than 3 inches but less than the 3-point on one side restriction.

Reports from the AR Program

Key Findings from the AR Program

  • Antler point restriction WMUs in New York StateThe 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.