ALBANY - The Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted rules affecting deer and bear hunting in New York, to implement certain aspects of the state's Five-Year Deer Management Plan, Commissioner Joe Martens announced recently.
"With these changes, DEC has started implementing several strategies of the recently adopted Management Plan for white-tailed deer," Martens said. "Though the management plan addresses much more than deer hunting, these changes emphasize the value of hunting as a tradition for New Yorkers and as the primary tool for deer management."
The adopted changes include:
Beginning bow hunting season and the regular season for the Southern Zone in Westchester County - bow hunting only - on Oct. 1 and establishing a late bow hunting season concurrent with the late muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone. These changes will increase opportunities by several weeks for most New York bow hunters;
Adjusting the Northern Zone season dates by opening the Northern Zone regular season for 44 days, beginning on the second Saturday after Columbus Day. This is a slight change from the original proposal to begin the regular season on the fourth Saturday in October. Some hunters were concerned the original proposal would extend the season too late into December. The adopted season structure results in fewer years when the regular season will extend later than it has in the past;
Allowing Deer Management Permits - DMPs, "doe tags" - to be used in all seasons in the Northern Zone. This change will simplify regulations and increase hunter opportunity and choice. No management impact is expected since DEC determines the total number of DMPs issued in each area of the state based on current deer population conditions and hunting activity;
Expanding mandatory antler restrictions - three points on one side minimum - into Wildlife Management Units - WMUs - 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W, as called for in the Deer Management Plan. DEC is working to develop a systematic and objective process to guide future decisions regarding antler restrictions or other buck harvest strategies to best satisfy the desires of New York deer hunters and stakeholders;
Opening all of Suffolk County for the special January firearms season, subject to local discharge ordinances. This change will simplify options for hunters, should local municipalities change ordinances to allow discharge of bows or firearms;
Establishing a Deer Management Focus Area in central Tompkins County to intensify use of hunting to assist communities in the Ithaca area with the burden of overabundant deer populations. The focus area program is established to reduce total deer populations within the focus area by providing more time and more tags to hunters who can gain access to huntable land. DEC plans to evaluate this new approach over the next several years and, depending on the results, will consider designation of other locations as deer management focus areas. More information about the focus area program, including registration forms will be available on the DEC website in September; and
Adjusting bear hunting seasons to remain concurrent with deer seasons. DEC believes retaining a consistent season structure for big game hunting is currently preferable, though future bear management may necessitate deviation from this approach.
The full text of the adopted regulations is available at www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/81317.html. To understand DEC's rationale for the adopted season changes, and to review DEC's assessment of public comments on this rulemaking, see www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/deerregapc2012.pdf. Also, the 2012 deer hunting seasons can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28605.html and additional information about mandatory antler restrictions in New York is available at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/27663.html.
DEC's Deer Management Plan, available at www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/deerplan2012.pdf, was the foundation for these regulation changes, and over the coming year, DEC will be initiating other aspects of the plan to address ecological impacts of deer and continue improving deer management capacity for the benefit of all New Yorkers.