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Deer Hunting Season Forecasts

2019 New York State Forecast

graphic showing effect of age on buck size

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.

It's great to see how hunters voluntarily choosing to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow is shifting our buck harvest toward older, larger animals. In fact, nearly 60% of the adult bucks harvested last fall were 2.5 years or older, setting a record for the greatest percentage and total number of older bucks in the harvest. Whether through organized deer hunting cooperatives, informal agreements among neighbors, or individual determination, hunters can continue to push the harvest ratio solidly toward older bucks by choosing to let young bucks go.

2019-2020 Deer Hunting Season

For the 2019-20 deer hunting season, we expect the statewide buck harvest to be similar to 2018 and the antlerless harvest to increase slightly. Deer sighting rates recorded by bowhunters (Bowhunter Sighting Log) last fall suggest a growing population, with an average of 7.4 deer seen per 10 hours and 3 antlerless deer seen per antlered deer. The 2018-19 winter was mild across nearly all of the state, resulting in strong overwinter survival. Then, deer had ample forage through spring and early summer this year as the generally wet conditions led to a quick green-up of native forbs and abundant soft masts. This is in stark contrast to the dry conditions across most of the state during the early growing season last summer. As a consequence, does were better able to handle the demands of nursing, fawns will grow well, and I expect that the antlered bucks will have slightly larger antlers this year compared to last.

Statewide, we increased the allocation of Deer Management Permits (DMPs; antlerless tags) by 13% from what was issued in 2018, with most of the increased DMP availability occurring in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in central and western New York where deer populations are either above desired levels or increasing toward desired levels.

chart of sighting rates of deer recorded by bowhunters from 2009 to 2018

So overall, we are expecting another productive season for NY deer hunters with ever improving opportunities to take an older buck. Hunters continue to have abundant opportunities to take antlerless deer, particularly in the lower Hudson Valley, Long Island, Finger Lakes region, and in the northern portions of DEC regions 7, 8, and 9.

For greater detail on what is happening with the deer population in your area, check out the Unit-by-Unit Forecasts assembled by our regional big game biologists:

map of severity of 2018-19 winter

Moving Toward a New Era in NY Deer Management

In 2018, we began phasing in a survey-based process for gathering information on citizens' preferences on deer population levels. We mailed the survey to a random selection of citizens in about one third of the state in 2018, a third in 2019, and will complete the rest of the state in 2020. The survey asks about people's deer-related interests and concerns, how they would like to see the deer population in their area change over the next several years, and how important deer management issues are to them. We intend to use the survey results, in combination with data on deer impacts on forest regeneration, to guide whether deer populations should increase, decrease, or stay the same in each Wildlife Management Unit aggregate. Because deer can have profound and long-lasting negative impacts on forest ecosystems and personal property, keeping these impacts at a sustainable level is a top priority of our deer program.

Hunters are Crucial to Protect our Deer from Chronic Wasting Disease

Hunters should take the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) very seriously! CWD is always fatal to deer. If introduced, CWD could spread rapidly and be practically impossible to eliminate once established, threatening the future of New York's deer population, hunting tradition, and many of the other benefits associated with deer. The most effective disease management strategy is to prevent CWD from entering New York. Hunters can help protect New York's deer herd from CWD by following these tips:

  • If you hunt any type of deer, elk, moose or caribou outside of New York, debone your animal before bringing it back, and follow the law about importing carcass parts from outside of New York. See CWD Regulations for Hunters. DEC will confiscate and destroy illegally imported carcasses and parts.
  • Avoid natural deer urine products. Prions are shed in the bodily fluids (saliva, feces, urine) of infected deer before they appear sick. Prions bind to soil and plants where they remain infectious for years. There is no way to ensure that urine products are free of prions. Choose synthetic alternatives.
  • Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles.
  • Report any deer that appears sick or acting abnormally.

Help Make Deer Management Successful

First, focus on antlerless harvest where DMPs are available and population reduction is needed. For deer hunting to remain relevant and be valued by the broader public, hunters must demonstrate willingness and ability to reduce deer populations to levels that are socially and ecologically compatible.

Second, report your harvest. It's important for deer management and it's the law. Hunters are the only source of two critical pieces of harvest information - when and where deer are taken. These data are used, together with reporting rates, to estimate the number of deer harvested in each town, county, and Wildlife Management Unit throughout the State. In 2017 and 2018, about 50% of successful deer hunters reported their harvest, which was a nice increase from the 45% level seen in recent years. Still, New York hunters have a long way to go to demonstrate that they take seriously their responsibility to Take It · Tag It · Report It.

Third, make the most of your hunting by helping DEC track deer and other wildlife populations. If you are a bowhunter, we welcome your participation in the Bowhunter Sighting Log. Keep a diary of your bowhunting activity and the number of animals you see for your records and ours.

You can also become an AVID (leaves DEC website) volunteer by collecting information about how deer are impacting the woodlands in which you hunt. These data will help our biologists ensure deer populations are being managed at levels that encourage healthy and sustainable forests.

Be a Mentor

Shared experience with family and friends is one of the most cherished aspects of hunting. We encourage you to share that heritage by mentoring a young person in your life. With a mentor, junior hunters (ages 12-15) can hunt for big game with a bow and 14-15 year olds can hunt big game with a firearm. Also, unlicensed persons of any age can accompany you while you hunt, as long as they don't participate in the hunt. The Youth Firearms Big Game Hunt includes the option for 14-15 year olds to take bear as well as deer with a firearm during Columbus Day weekend, October 12-14, 2019.

Consider Using Non-Lead Ammunition

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? for more information).

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.

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.