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DEC announces 2023-24 deer harvest estimates


Mon, May 6th 2024 12:10 pm

New York hunters harvested nearly 210,000 deer, more older bucks than ever before

Submitted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Interim Commissioner Sean Mahar announced that, during the 2023-24 hunting seasons, hunters in New York harvested an estimated 209,781 deer. The 2023-24 deer harvest included more than twice as many older bucks – bucks 2-and-a-half years old or older – than were harvested in the early 1990s, and nearly five times as many than were harvested in 1969 when DEC first began monitoring the age structure of New York’s deer herd.

“Nearly 70% of the bucks harvested by hunters during the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons were 2 years or older,” Mahar said. “This demonstrates the continued effectiveness of DEC’s ‘Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow’ campaign, and the willingness of hunters to voluntarily pass up opportunities at young bucks to improve their future opportunities to harvest older bucks.”

The 2023-24 estimated deer harvest included an estimated 112,224 antlered bucks (i.e., adult males) and an estimated 97,557 antlerless deer (i.e., adult females and fawns of either sex). Statewide, this represents a 3.6% decrease in antlered buck harvest and a 15.6% decrease in antlerless deer harvest from last season. The decrease in antlerless deer harvest, which is approximately 15% lower than the five-year average, is concerning because DEC manages deer populations through actions that encourage harvest of antlerless deer. Harvesting antlerless deer helps ensure deer populations remain in balance with available habitat and do not exceed levels of public acceptance that can lead to increased crop damage, deer-vehicle collisions, and other potentially negative deer-related impacts. Harvesting antlerless deer also helps ensure deer are able meet their nutritional demands for antler development, fawn recruitment, and body growth.

In some areas of the state, especially in wildlife management units (WMUs) 1C, 3M, 3R, 3S, 4J, 6P, 7F, 7H, 7J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8J, 8R, 8S, 9A and 9F, hunters are not harvesting enough antlerless deer to manage deer populations effectively. The highest deer harvest densities were documented in the Western Finger Lakes region and Central Appalachian Plateau. Hunters harvested more than 10 deer per square mile in WMUs 8H, 8M, 8N, 8R, 8T, 8X and 9Y, with more than 15 deer harvested per square mile in WMU 8R. In some of these units, more antlerless deer need to be harvested to achieve population management objectives.

DEC is evaluating various regulatory and non-regulatory alternatives to increase harvest of antlerless deer during future hunting seasons, and encourages all deer hunters in the WMUs to harvest at least one antlerless deer during the upcoming 2024-25 deer hunting season.

Throughout the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons, DEC staff and cooperating taxidermists collected biological samples from 2,713 deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance. No samples tested positive, and New York state remains CWD-free. DEC reminds hunters to remain vigilant to prevent the introduction of CWD into New York. Additionally, no outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease were documented in New York’s deer herd in 2023.

Notable numbers

√ 15.8 and 0.6 – number of deer taken per square mile in the units with the highest (WMU 8R) and lowest (WMU 5F) harvest density.

√ 67.9% – portion of the adult buck harvest that was 2-and-a-half years or older statewide, up from 45% a decade ago, and 30% in the 1990s.

√ 49.9% – portion of successful deer hunters that reported their harvest as required by law. This is slightly above the five-year average of 48.6%.

√ Approximately 1.7% – the precision of DEC’s 2023-24 statewide deer harvest estimate.

√ 13,638 – number of hunter-harvested deer checked by DEC staff in 2023 to determine hunter reporting rate and collect biological data (e.g., age, sex, antler data).

√ 2,713 – deer tested for CWD in 2023-24; none tested positive. DEC has tested more than 65,000 deer for CWD since 2002.

Deer harvest data are gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required within seven days of harvest of all successful deer hunters, and DEC’s examination of harvested deer at meat processors and check stations across the state. Harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources and calculating the total harvest from the reporting rate for each zone and tag type.

DEC’s 2023-24 deer harvest summary report provides tables, figures and maps detailing the deer harvest around the state. Past harvest summaries are also available on DEC’s website. Appendix two of DEC’s management plan for white-tailed deer provides information on how DEC sets deer population objectives throughout the state.

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