Hunters divided on deer issues

Waverly, N.Y. — New York’s deer hunters have no shortage of opinions on how the state should manage the whitetail population and what hunting regulations should be in place.

And that will clearly be a major challenge for DEC wildlife biologists and they move forward with potential changes to deer-hunting regulations that may involve some kind of protections of yearling bucks.

There’s a clear split among hunters when it comes to issues like antler restrictions, season length, Deer Management Permit allocations and other whitetail-related issues. And the division is so pronounced it’s apparent whatever DEC decision is made – likely for the 2015 season – there will be solid opposition to it.

All one has to do is look at the Facebook responses to a recent New York Outdoor News story outlining DEC’s plans to revamp the state’s deer hunting regulations through a “Structured Decision-Making” process this year. What was seemingly a routine story on the likelihood of some changes generated well over 100 responses, and their comments were wide-ranging on the issue of yearling buck protection.

“Can’t eat antlers,” wrote one NYON reader.

“There’s usually more meat under large antlers,” countered another.

“There’s no meat if you let him walk!” another reader weighed in.

The prospect of some form of antler restrictions (three points on one side) almost immediately triggers an ongoing debate among hunters. Already in place in nearly a dozen southeastern New York wildlife management units, there’s a growing trend among deer hunters who are passing on smaller bucks.

But there is also a solid core of hunters who recoil at the prospect of the state dictating what their return on their hunting license-buying investment should be.

It’s a dispute not likely to be resolved anytime soon, and it underscores the challenges DEC wildlife biologists face in drafting regulations that meet their management needs while at the same time accommodate hunter desires.

“I would love to see antler restrictions come to western New York,” one Facebook response read.

“Shooting a mature buck is great but not why I’m out there,” read one comment. “My family loves venison and at times hunting is limited. If I don’t have a shot at a doe and only see yearling bucks guess I’ll have to eat tag soup.”

“Change is good. I would applaud antler restrictions.”

Whatever decisions result from the process, it’s likely they won’t be applauded by all hunters. DEC officials said management options range from mandatory antler restrictions statewide for the entire season to:

• mandatory antler restrictions for all of the archery deer season through the first week of the firearms season.
• a one-buck harvest limit for hunters.
• a shortening of the firearms season by one week in the Southern Zone and two weeks in the Northern Zone.
• an active promotion of voluntary antler restrictions in which hunters are urged to pass on yearling bucks.
• no changes at all, maintaining deer hunting regulations as they are. That, officials say, is an unlikely outcome of the process.

And regulations may differ from one region of the state to the next. DEC is in the process of establishing “WMU aggregates” which will be used in the decision-making process.

Discussions on season length, too, also trigger debate.

“I don’t mind the buck regulations but I think we need to extend the hunting season,” one reader wrote. “It’s hard enough to even shoot a buck where I hunt they’re so nocturnal.”
Others also weighed in:

• “Do not cut out hunting dates! Extend muzzleloader season to the end of December; the 7-day season is too short and can be lost due to weather.”
• “I would like to see the season last longer and allow more deer take.”
• “Antler restrictions and a shorter gun season is a great idea.”
• “Lengthen the seasons and make them later, adding in a crossbow season.”

Categories: Hunting News, Hunting Top Story, Social Media, Whitetail Deer

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