The New York Department of Environmental Conservation announced the results of a multi-year study to guide buck management.
After reaching out to hunters across the state in an effort to cull information from the hunting population, the N.Y. DEC has come to the conclusion that hunters in the state prefer to harvest older, more mature bucks.
At this time, the state will not expand mandatory antler restrictions any further, instead giving the hunting community the opportunity to voluntarily pass on shots at younger deer. In some corners, this will come as a welcome surprise, and in others the desire to expand antler restrictions carries on.
DEC acting commissioner Basil Seggos was quoted as saying, "Through this study, DEC engaged with the hunting community to determine the best deer herd management practices to benefit both the deer population and our state's wildlife enthusiasts. DEC staff concluded that promoting voluntary restraint was appropriate given the high level of hunter support for increased availability of older bucks. Using a sound scientific approach to wildlife management is an essential strategy to expand hunting opportunities and growing the hunting economy in New York."
The study included a statewide survey of some 7,000 deer hunters conducted in fall 2013 by the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University. This nationally recognized leader in surveys assessed the public opinions and attitudes on related issues.
The DEC lists five alternatives to increase the older buck population in proportion to the rest of the herd. Included are:
Mandatory antler restrictions during all or portions of the archery and firearms seasons
Shorter firearms seasons
One-buck per hunter per year rule
Voluntary restraint by hunters
An option for no change
Everyone seems to have something at stake in this decision, and not all will be pleased, but as Larry Becker, Chairman of the New York Sportsmen's Advisory Council said, "The issue of antler restrictions has divided our deer hunting community for too many years and I am pleased to see that the DEC used a very structured, non-biased decision-making process to determine the outcome"
The DEC plans to continue its work with the sporting community and such entities as the New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) and Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA)
Kip Adams, of QDMA, Director of Education & Outreach said, "The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is pleased New York has engaged its deer hunters at such a high level to learn their values and desires."
As education is the key in teaching young hunters and even kindly spreading the word to veteran hunters to pass on yearling and other young bucks is paramount. One thing all hunters in the state desire that there can be no argument about, and that this decision gives is the power of choice. Detailed reports, analysis, and results of the hunter survey are available on the DEC website.
One thing that is certain, the great state of New York has a powerful and active friend in the state's DEC and while they will never please everyone their job is to research and inform the outdoor public which they do very well. Thank goodness they are there because you never know what you have until it's gone.