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Deer Hunting Season Forecasts

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

harvested buck with compound bow

2023-24 Deer Hunting Season

DEC biologists predict that the 2023-2024 hunting season will be another productive season for New York's deer hunters. Winter-related stress and mortality were minimal for deer during the winter of 2022-2023, which was the eighth mild winter in a row across the state. Although natural vegetation and crops got off to a slow start due to unusually dry conditions during the months of May and June, above average levels of precipitation and temperatures throughout the month of July have improved deer forage quality across most of the state. However, some areas of western New York and Long Island are still experiencing moderate drought conditions and a late frost in May along with localized outbreaks of spongy moth may affect the production of certain crops (ex. apples) and hard mast (ex. acorns) in some areas this fall. No outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which impacted deer populations on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley the past three years and areas surrounding eastern Lake Ontario in 2021, have been detected yet this summer. Increases in buck harvest, which DEC tracks as an index of deer population abundance, during the 2022-23 hunting seasons indicate that deer populations in affected areas are recovering.

In response to growing deer populations in many areas of the state DEC has increased the availability of deer management permits (DMPs) (i.e., antlerless deer tags) or maintained them at similar levels to last year for the 2023-2024 hunting season. DMPs are the primary tool used by DEC to manage deer populations and are available to hunters through an instant lottery process beginning August 1 and ending October 1. Hunters should consult DEC's table of DMP targets and chances of selection before purchasing their license. Use of DMPs by hunters helps ensure that deer populations do not exceed habitat carrying capacity or levels of social acceptability (ex. farmers experiencing crop damage), and limits the need for DEC to use other methods to reduce deer impacts. DMPs also provide additional opportunities for hunters to extend their time afield and fill their freezers with venison.

Statewide, DEC anticipates the total antlered buck harvest this fall will be similar to last year. However, the age distribution of bucks available to hunters continues to improve. Although a mandatory antler point restriction continues in a few WMUs, in the rest of the state where hunters can choose the buck they want to harvest, most are continuing to choose to harvest older bucks. Based on DEC's deer population monitoring, the buck harvest has shifted from more than 70% yearlings a couple decades ago to greater than 60% 2.5-year-old or older bucks in recent years. If you are interested in seeing more larger, older-aged bucks and experiencing greater buck activity during the breeding season, DEC recommends practicing and encouraging other hunters to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow. Harvesting antlerless deer instead of young bucks contributes more to deer management and can increase hunter satisfaction through increased viewing of and opportunities to harvest older-aged bucks.

Expanded Hunting Opportunities

Deer harvest data and feedback from hunters has continued to demonstrate the benefits of expanded hunting opportunities established in 2021, and deer hunters will continue to enjoy these opportunities during the 2023-24 seasons as well as new opportunities to use rifles to hunt big game in Onondaga County.

  1. Onondaga was added to the list of counties where rifles can be used to take big game during the regular season in 2023.

  2. 12- and 13-year old hunters may hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow in counties that passed a local law to participate in the opportunity. See Junior Big Game Hunting for a map of participating counties.

  3. Antlerless-only deer season in mid-September (9/9 - 9/17/2023) using firearms, crossbows, and vertical bows in WMUs 3M, 3R, 8A, 8F, 8G, 8J, 8N, 9A, and 9F, and using only vertical bows in WMUs 1C, 3S, 4J, and 8C. Only DMPs and DMAP tags may be used.

  4. Daily hunting hours for deer and bear extended to 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.

  5. Holiday Deer Hunt remains an extension of the late bow and muzzleloader season from December 26 - January 1 in the Southern Zone. Hunters and other recreationists are encouraged to Share the Snow (PDF).

Do Your Part to Steward New York's Deer - Take an Antlerless Deer & Report Your Harvest!

let young bucks go and watch them grow
The voluntary choice of hunters to
Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow
is shifting our buck harvest toward older, larger animals.

The two most important things you can do as a hunter to ensure effective management of New York's deer herd are to harvest at least one antlerless deer per year and to report all the deer you harvest. DEC relies on hunters to harvest antlerless deer to help keep deer populations and wildlife habitat healthy. Hunter reports of harvested deer are also the only source of two critical pieces of information that guide DEC's management - when and where deer are taken. These data are used to estimate the number of deer harvested in each WMU throughout the State which guides future management actions. In 2022, only 46% of successful deer hunters reported their harvest even though it is critical to DEC's deer management and is required by law. Help steward New York's deer herd by following through on your responsibility to tag your deer and report your harvests this hunting season - Take It · Tag It · Report It.

Protect New York Deer by Keeping Chronic Wasting Disease Out

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is spreading across the country and, if introduced to New York, could permanently impact our deer population and hunting tradition. CWD is always fatal to deer and is practically impossible to eliminate once established. The most effective strategy is to prevent CWD from entering New York in the first place. Hunters can help protect New York's deer herd from CWD by taking the following steps:

  1. If you hunt white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, or other deer species outside of New York, debone the venison and follow the legal requirements for other parts of the carcass before bringing them back to New York. See CWD Regulations for Hunters. DEC will confiscate and destroy illegally imported carcasses and parts.
  2. Avoid natural deer urine scent lures and attractants. CWD can spread through the bodily fluids (saliva, feces, urine) of infected deer before they appear sick. CWD prions (abnormal proteins) bind to soil and plants where they can remain infectious for years. There is no way to ensure that natural deer urine products are free of prions. Use synthetic alternatives instead.
  3. Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles. CWD is commonly spread through deer transported between high-fence facilities.
  4. Report any deer that appears sick or is acting abnormally to DEC.

Use Non-Lead Ammunition - It's Better for Wildlife and Better for You

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?).

Find 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. The Tompkins County Deer Management Focus Area season also runs from the second Saturday in January through January 31 (January 13-31, 2024).

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.