Antler restriction language in New York budget

Albany — Supporters and opponents of a proposal to dramatically expand antler restriction regulations in New York scrambled to weigh in on the plan, which is now included in the Senate version of the state budget.

If approved via that route, a Senate proposal would be rendered moot.

Supporters of expanded three- , or in some units four-points-on-one-side regulations for deer hunters, have taken a two-pronged approach in an effort to have antler restrictions expanded – either through language contained within the state budget or via legislation.

One avenue – the state budget – was expected to be decided by press time. And that had both sides of the debate making last-minute pleas to state lawmakers ahead of the April 1 deadline for budget passage.

The New York State Conservation Council, which has consistently opposed mandatory antler restrictions, said the push to impose those restrictions cropped up again “like a cancer.

It is now included in the 2017 Senate budget bill, which is a way to sneak it in with little notice, until hunting season comes around and you no longer have the ability to harvest the deer of your choice,” the Council  said in a statement.

The organization urged its members to contact their state lawmakers and urge them to remove antler restriction language from the budget “and tell them that yearling buck protection will hurt our wildlife and take away the ability of the DEC to manage it; it does not belong in the budget bill.”

The council also voiced its opposition to Senate bill 4739, sponsored by Sen. Thomas O’Mara (R-C-I, Big Flats), who sits as chair of the Senate’s environmental conservation committee where the bill now sits.

And an Assembly version of the bill emerged last month. That bill, A6802, is sponsored by Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Saratoga Springs.

“The NYSCC strongly opposes this legislation. It is the policy of the council to support wildlife and land management through DEC regulation as opposed to management through legislative statute,” the council said in a memorandum in opposition to mandatory antler restrictions.

The antler restriction debate surfaces a year after DEC, following a lengthy “structured decision-making” process, decided against imposing additional antler restrictions in other wildlife units. Three-points-on-one-side regulations are currently in effort in 11 wildlife management units in southeastern New York.

At that time, DEC officials said that while the state’s deer hunters placed a high value (55 percent) on harvesting a big buck, 57 percent value the freedom to take the buck of their choice.

And 58 percent of those surveyed indicated there were satisfied with DEC’s current deer hunting regulations.

On the heels of that decision, the New York Whitetail Management Coalition launched a broad petition drive pushing for additional antler restrictions across much of the state. In May of last year coalition officials delivered a petition signed by 6,000 individuals to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The legislation and budget language regarding antler restrictions is a clear message that, despite DEC’s hopes of putting the issue to rest for the next several years with their decision not to expand antler regs, the debate is far from over.

The Senate bill and budget language that could trigger additional antler restrictions had message boards and Facebook lighting up, with sportsmen on both sides of the issue weighing in.

Those conversations also led to additional topics, such as the potential for a one-buck regulation for New York state.

As the marquee big-game animal in most states, including New York, the deer hunting fraternity is rarely in agreement on a variety of management issues.

Supporters of antler restrictions point to their success in neighboring states, such as Pennsylvania. Opponents note that another neighbor – Ohio – known for its quality deer hunting has no such regulations, instead offering a short, post-rut, shotgun-only season as a means of growing big bucks.

Categories: Whitetail Deer

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