Overall, New York state deer hunters tagged approximately 220,000 whitetails during the 2007 season, a 16 percent increase over the previous season, according to the DEC's calculation.
Harvest numbers increased in every deer hunting category DEC tracks and figures: bucks, antlerless deer (females and young males), takes by muzzleloading and takes by bowhunting.
Western New York continues to lead the State in total deer-harvest densities. The top five counties for 2007 were Yates (12.8 total deer per square mile), Allegany (10.3), Wyoming (9.7), Ontario (9.7) and Genesee (9.6).
However, the total deer kill is strongly impacted by the number of DMPs available in an area, which directly impacts the harvest of antlerless deer. A more accurate picture of deer densities is revealed by the density of buck harvest. By this calculation, the top counties for buck harvest density were: Allegany County (4.5 bucks per square mile), Yates (4.3), Wyoming (4.0), Steuben (4.0), and Tompkins (3.8).
At the same time, the number of hunting-related shooting incidents hit a new record low, 14, although there were five fatalities. Also, researchers detected no cases of Chronic Wasting Disease during the season, despite testing nearly 7,500 deer.
"Results were right about where we projected, with continued growth in many Southern Zone units," DEC head Pete Grannis said. "Overall, New York hunters had a safe and successful season."
The 2007 take included 104,451 bucks and 114,690 antlerless deer. Buck takes grew by 8 percent over 2006 (96,569) and 17 percent over 2005 (89,015), suggesting that deer populations in many portions of New York are continuing to grow slowly.
With the population increase, DEC has increased the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) issued in the last two years. DMPs are issued for harvest of antlerless deer only, and their availability varies among the 92 wildlife management units (WMUs) across the state, depending on the status of the deer population in each unit. As a result of the increase in DMPs issued, the 2007 antlerless take increased 24 percent from 2006 (92,539) and 26 percent over 2005 (91,199).
Since 1990, DEC has used local Citizen Task Forces to establish deer population objectives for most Wildlife Management Units. These panels represent a broad range of public interests and consider concerns of landowners, farmers, foresters, conservationists, hunters and others. The population objectives reflect the approximate buck take per square mile that would be taken when the deer population is close to the desired level.
Because the deer population can vary widely across the state, DEC deer specialists point out that looking only at statewide numbers can be misleading. In fact, the 2007 hunting results indicate that 48 percent of the Wildlife Management Units had deer population numbers below objective levels and 29 percent had populations above desired levels.
In 2007, muzzleloader hunting once again gained in popularity with more than 232,000 hunters buying muzzleloader licenses and a total take of more than 17,207 deer. This is the highest muzzleloader take on record.
The muzzleloader take increased by 8 percent over the year before (15,746) and 11 percent over two years ago (15,232).
New York's bowhunters also increased their take: 31,060 compared to 29,455 the previous year and 26,431 two years ago. Bowhunters play a critical role in deer management on Long Island and in the bowhunting-only areas near the cities of Albany and Rochester and in Westchester County. In these areas, bowhunters took over 4,800 deer, approximately 66 percent of which were antlerless deer.
Harvest on Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits rose just above 10,100 deer, increasing only slightly from 2006. DMAP permits are issued for focused removal of antlerless deer on specific properties and are considered important by the DEC for reducing deer-related damage or for meeting land-management or other deer-management goals.
New York's pilot antler restriction program began in 2005 in two WMUs located primarily in Ulster County, and was expanded in 2006 to include two WMUs primarily in Sullivan County. The antler restriction stipulates that bucks taken in these areas have at least one antler with three points at least one inch in length to be legal. This standard is intended to reduce harvest of yearling bucks, allowing them to survive to older ages.
Buck take in each of these units dropped significantly during the first year of the program because many yearling bucks were not legal for harvest. As expected, buck take then increased in most units during the second year. However, buck takes in the Ulster County WMUs in 2007, the third year of the pilot restriction, were similar to 2006 takes. All of the pilot units are still below objectives.
According to the DEC, the pilot program has demonstrated success in reducing harvest of yearling bucks and shifting the composition of harvest toward slightly older bucks. With data from all four units combined, harvest before the change was 57 percent yearlings, 29 percent 2.5 year olds, and 14 percent 3.5+ year olds. After the antler restriction, the take in these four units was 33 percent yearlings, 43 percent 2.5 year olds, and 24 percent 3.5+ year old bucks.
2007 Deer Calculated Harvest Comparison
Adult Male 96,569 104,451
Antlerless 92,539 114,690
Total 189,108 219,141
Adult Female 60,101 76,367
DMPs Issued 396,500 511,434
DMP 63,293 83,624
DMAP 9,989 10,136
Muzzleloader 15,746 17,207
Archery 29,454 31,060
Efforts continued with CWD surveillance through sampling of hunter-killed deer statewide and mandatory deer checks in the Oneida-Madison County CWD Containment Area. Despite testing approximately 7,470 deer (including more than 1,400 deer from the CWD Containment Area), no cases were detected. CWD is a rare neurological disease that affects the brains of deer, elk and moose, causing the animals to become emaciated, lose body functions and eventually die.
CWD surveillance began in New York in 2002, with increased efforts since 2005 after the disease was detected in five captive and two wild deer in Oneida County. Since 2002, over 26,250 samples have been collected throughout the state, including almost 5,300 samples from the Oneida-Madison County CWD Containment Area, and no additional cases have been detected.
Big-game hunting incidents continue to be very low compared to previous years, despite the sobering fact that five fatalities occurred while deer hunting in 2007. However, the 2007 deer season set a new record low with only 14 hunting-related shooting incidents. After more than 50 years of mandatory hunter education courses, New York State now has an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters.