Jeremy Hurst, Wildlife Biologist, NYSDEC
Last fall, DEC adopted a Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State, 2012–2016. The plan provides strategic direction for our program and will help us focus our efforts where they can best meet the biological and social demands associated with deer. Through the plan we emphasize the value of hunting as a tradition and as the primary tool for deer management, the need to create new opportunities for young deer hunters, and the importance of addressing the ecological impacts associated with deer.
The plan outlines six primary goals that encompass the priorities for deer management and the values and issues expressed by the public: 1) manage deer populations at levels that are appropriate for human and ecological concerns; 2) promote and enhance deer hunting as an important tradition and management tool; 3) reduce negative impacts caused by deer; 4) foster public understanding and communication about deer ecology, deer management, economic aspects and recreational opportunities; 5) manage deer to promote healthy and sustainable forests and enhance habitat conservation efforts to benefit deer and other species; and 6) ensure that the necessary resources are available to support effective management of white-tailed deer in New York.
This fall, DEC has adopted regulations to begin implementing several strategies of the deer plan, primarily geared toward increasing opportunity for hunters. These include:
- beginning the Southern Zone bowhunting season and the regular season in Westchester County (bowhunting only) on October 1;
- establishing a late bowhunting season in December in the Northern Zone;
- allowing Deer Management Permits (DMPs, “doe tags”) to be used in all seasons in the Northern Zone;
- expanding mandatory antler restrictions (3 point on one side minimum) into Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W;
- opening all of Suffolk County for the special January firearms season, subject to local discharge ordinances; and
- establishing a Deer Management Focus Area in Tompkins County to intensify use of hunting to assist communities with the burden of overabundant deer populations.
Also this fall, we will be implementing a new big game hunter log to track hunting effort and sighting rates of deer, black bear and moose during the regular firearms season. Logs will be sent to a random sample of hunters throughout the state.
Moving forward, our next major tasks from the deer plan will be to:
- develop Wildlife Management Unit groupings for use in deer population monitoring, harvest analysis and management decisions;
- evaluate making Bonus DMPs antlerless-only or requiring hunters to take more than one antlerless deer before earning an either-sex Bonus DMP;
- develop an objective system for identifying appropriate strategies to reduce harvest of young bucks (see Antler Restrictions and Other Buck Harvest Strategies); and
- develop an index to asses deer impacts on forests and incorporate that index into deer population objective setting.
Aside from deer, over the coming year, DEC’s Big Game Management Team will also be drafting a management plan for black bear and developing a research program to assess moose populations.