In last year’s hunting guide, we included an article titled, Moving Forward: Antler Restrictions and Other Buck Harvest Strategies, in which we described the social issues surrounding mandatory antler restrictions and other buck management decisions in New York. We also highlighted our intent to use objective criteria to identify the best strategies for reducing harvest of yearling bucks.
As hunters, we know there are multiple ways to reduce harvest of yearling bucks. Some strategies might achieve greater reductions in yearling buck harvest than others and some would impose substantial restrictions on all hunters’ freedom to choose what type of buck they want to harvest. Additionally, each alternative might also affect overall deer population management, and some would further complicate our hunting regulations, thereby challenging compliance by hunters and enforcement by officers. These tradeoffs get to the heart of the problem DEC faces in deciding what strategy might be best for different regions in the state. Accordingly, DEC has been developing a systematic process that will help managers make more informed decisions while accounting for regional differences in hunter desires and deer population status. The process includes the following steps.
To begin, we identified our objectives relative to yearling buck management decisions and the alternative strategies that might help us meet those objectives (see sidebar).
Next, we need to understand what impact each of the alternatives might have on each of the objectives. Since population management and some components of hunter satisfaction are influenced by the abundance and age/sex composition of the deer population, we created a population model to depict likely outcomes of each alternative. However, hunter satisfaction is also strongly influenced by what hunters perceive about their hunting experience (e.g., opportunity, fairness and complexity) and what they value (e.g., harvesting an older buck and/or having freedom of choice). So in keeping with a scientifically rigorous approach, we intend to survey a random sample of hunters throughout New York during the fall of 2013. This survey will not simply be a tally of support or opposition for each of the possible alternatives but rather will gather specific information about hunters’ desired outcomes, what aspects of hunting they value, and how important various aspects of hunting are to them. Based on that information, we can determine which alternative management strategy best meets the multiple objectives for different areas of the state.
And finally, we must consider the relative importance of each objective to the decision. Since DEC manages deer for all the people of New York, considerations related to population management are of utmost importance. However, social interest among some hunters is the primary reason new buck management strategies are being considered, so results of the hunter survey will be a principal factor used to identify the best strategy for future yearling buck harvest management in various regions of the state. Once all the data are assembled, this structured decision-making process will help us identify a management strategy that best balances the multiple objectives and is compatible with the diverse interests of hunters in a particular area. For more information about this process as it develops, and for background information about mandatory antler restrictions already in place in New York, see www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27663.html.
Managing Yearling Buck Harvest
More Data About NY Buck Harvests
To provide hunters with more information about the characteristics of bucks harvested in New York, DEC has included new maps and charts in our annual harvest summary (www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/2012deerrpt.pdf). This past year, 44% of harvested bucks statewide were 2.5 years or older, compared to only 33% in 2000 when New York’s deer population peaked, and 28% in the early 1990s.
We plan to develop more material in the coming year, and to that end, DEC is collaborating with the New York State Big Buck Club (NYSBBC) to present some of their data on the DEC website so more hunters are able to see the distribution of trophy big game animals taken in New York. The NYSBBC keeps the official record books for New York State deer (and bear). The club certifies official measurers all around the state who are trained to score deer antlers based on the scoring system used by the Boone and Crockett Club. For more information about the NYSBBC, or to find an official measurer in your area, visit www.nysbigbuckclub.com.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.