ALBANY — New York State white-tailed deer hunters have been reporting more success in 2018 than last year through the end of the regular big game season, the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced Wednesday.

"New York's hunters are having success this year, myself included, and all signs are pointing to sizable and healthy herd. I was fortunate enough to get my first buck this year," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said.

Through Dec. 16, hunters reported taking approximately 14 percent more deer in the Northern Zone and 11 percent more deer in the Southern Zone, compared to the same period in 2017. Reports from the Southern Zone and Northern Zone are up more than 26 percent and 33 percent from 2016 numbers, respectively, indicating an increase in harvest over the past three hunting seasons.

A final tally of the seasons' deer and bear harvests will be released early next year.

Through the final weekend of the Southern Zone late bow and muzzleloader season, hunters reported 94,515 deer in 2018, compared to 85,288 and 75,073 through the same period in 2017 and 2016, respectively. Similarly, in the Northern Zone, hunters have reported 14,458 deer in 2018, compared to 12,687 in 2017, and 10,894 in 2016.

Change in bear harvest varies by region this year. Hunters have reported taking 670 bears in the Southern Zone, compared to 884 at this point last year and 863 in 2016. In contrast, harvest reports increased in the Northern Zone, with 396 bears reported in 2018, compared to 302 bears at this point in 2017 and 464 bears in 2016.

Most of the state's big game hunting seasons have ended. For hunters seeking additional deer harvest opportunities, the bowhunting season continues in Westchester County until December 31. Also, the special firearms season in Suffolk County runs Jan. 6-31, 2019, and the Deer Management Focus Area in central Tompkins County runs January 12 to January 31, 2019.

Deer hunting indirectly contributes $1.5 billion to New York's economy on an annual basis, according to a 2012 report by Southwick Associates prepared for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. In the 2016-17 license year, hunters spent $22 million on deer hunting licenses alone.

DEC reminds hunters to Take It · Tag It · Report It, as required by state law. DEC has made the process of harvest reporting substantially easier for hunters, providing phone, internet, and mobile app options. Harvest reports are critically important for accurate monitoring of deer harvests, and DEC encourages hunters to continue to contribute to the management process by complying with the reporting requirements.

For more information on these and other important hunting safety tips, visit DEC's website.