Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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DEC forecasts ’06 deer take increase

Staff report

Albany – New York’s deer hunters should harvest slightly more
whitetails this season, ending a trend of declining harvest totals
over the past several years, DEC deer biologist Jeremy Hurst
says.

DEC officials didn’t make a harvest estimate, but said in their
season forecast efforts to boost the herd in several areas of the
state in 2004 and 2005, combined with an unusually mild winter,
leave the Empire State poised for a solid hunting season.

“Deer survival through winter was very good, and the spring
fawning season appears to have been very productive,” Hurst said in
his report. “This points to a deer population that is growing, with
the potential for rapid growth, particularly in the good habitat
areas of central and western New York.”

In fact, DEC deer managers are now looking at guarding against
too dramatic an upswing in deer numbers in some areas.

“Under the right circumstances, we can go from worrying about
too few deer in some areas to the possibility of too many again in
the span of only a few years,” Hurst said. “Deer numbers can
rebound much quicker than degraded habitat can be restored.”

Last year’s total harvest of 180,214 whitetails was the lowest
since 1994, but one that came by design, as Deer Management Permits
were cut by nearly 40 percent to allow the herd to rebuild in many
areas.

The 2005 take was 14 percent below the 2004 total of 208,406,
but the decline came almost exclusively via the antlerless deer
take as a result of the DMP cutbacks. In fact, the buck harvest, at
89,015, was up slightly from the previous year (88,733).

The slight increase in DMP numbers – from 313,840 last year to
328,160 this fall, well below the 600,000-plus in 2004 – this year
will likely be the major contributor in what’s projected as a
slight increase in the overall harvest.

Hurst’s report said that while overall DMP numbers is up by just
under 5 percent, allocations vary greatly in Wildlife Management
Units across the state.

“In general, regions 7, 8, and 9 in central and western New York
will have more DMPs available than in 2005; we’re managing for
conservative growth toward objective levels over the next few
years,” he said. “Region 4 is on the opposite end of the spectrum
with a 50 percent reduction in DMP allocations from last year, and
many WMUs with no permits available.”

Hurst said many Region 4 WMUs “have been slow to respond to
management actions and will need another few years of reduced DMP
availability in order for deer populations to increase.”

That underscores the variations in deer numbers across the
state, DEC officials said. About 20 percent of the state’s WMUs
have deer numbers that are within 10 percent of DEC’s target
levels, while 15 percent have higher numbers than desired.

“The remaining two-thirds of the units have lower than desired
deer populations,” said Hurst in his report. “The goal of DEC’s
deer management program is to maintain deer numbers at levels that
meet local interests and habitat conditions, while also providing
quality hunting opportunities.”

DEC officials said factors such as the move to a Saturday
opening day in the Southern Zone and the use of rifles in several
WMUs played no significant role in deer harvest last season.

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