DEC wants hunters to kill more antlerless deer

— Maps from DEC Deer harvest Summary 2023

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation is concerned that hunters are killing fewer  antlerless deer, that is, adult females and fawns of either sex. “Harvesting antlerless deer helps ensure deer populations remain in balance with available habitat and do not exceed levels of public acceptance that can lead to increased crop damage, deer-vehicle collisions, and other potentially negative deer-related impacts,” the DEC says.

The number of old bucks killed during hunting season continues to grow following a campaign launched by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.

During the 2023-24 hunting seasons, hunters in New York killed an estimated 209,781 deer, which included more than twice as many older bucks, bucks two-and-a-half years old or older, than were killed in the early 1990s, and nearly five times as many as were killed in 1969 when the DEC first began monitoring the age structure of New York’s deer herd.

“Nearly 70 percent of the bucks harvested by hunters during the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons were two years or older,” DEC Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar said in a release announcing the numbers. “This demonstrates the continued effectiveness of DEC’s Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow campaign, and the willingness of hunters to voluntarily pass up opportunities at young bucks to improve their future opportunities to harvest older bucks.”

An estimated 112,224 antlered bucks, that is, adult males, were killed in the 2023-24 hunting seasons as were an estimated 97,557 antlerless deer, that is, adult females and fawns of either sex.

Statewide, this represents a 3.6-percent decrease in antlered buck and a 15.6 percent decrease in antlerless deer from last season. The decrease in antlerless deer, which is approximately 15 percent lower than the five-year average, is concerning, the release says, “because DEC manages deer populations through actions that encourage harvest of antlerless deer.

“Harvesting antlerless deer helps ensure deer populations remain in balance with available habitat and do not exceed levels of public acceptance that can lead to increased crop damage, deer-vehicle collisions, and other potentially negative deer-related impacts.

“Harvesting antlerless deer also helps ensure deer are able meet their nutritional demands for antler development, fawn recruitment, and body growth.”

The DEC is evaluating various regulatory and non-regulatory alternatives to increase harvest of antlerless deer during future hunting seasons and encourages all deer hunters to harvest at least one antlerless deer during the upcoming 2024-25 deer hunting season.

Throughout the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons, DEC staff and cooperating taxidermists collected biological samples from 2,713 deer for Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance. No samples tested positive, and New York state remains free of the disease.

Additionally, no outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease were documented in New York’s deer herd in 2023.

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