The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced that the 2015 regular deer and bear hunting seasons open at sunrise on Saturday, November 21, in New York’s Southern Zone. These big game seasons close at sunset on Sunday, December 13.
“New York’s deer and bear populations are great resources for the state, providing over 10 million pounds of quality, locally grown, organic meat to families across the state,” said Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Regulated hunting of deer and bear is one of the most important conservation efforts New Yorkers engage in each year, as the annual harvest is critical for adjusting populations to levels that are compatible with local habitats and land uses. The opening of the Southern Zone regular season is also a cherished time for many families, drawing friends and relatives together for a weekend afield, to share stories and make memories. I wish all hunters a safe, enjoyable, and successful season.”
The Southern Zone Regular Season is New York’s most popular hunting season, with participation from about 85 percent of New York’s 550,000 licensed hunters. Harvest during this season accounts for nearly 60 percent of the total statewide deer harvest and 30 to 60 percent of the statewide bear harvest.
Throughout a large portion of the Southern Zone, from Niagara and Erie counties, across the northern Finger Lakes and Central New York, into the Mohawk Valley, and in the further southeastern New York area, current deer populations are higher than desired. In these areas, DEC has made Deer Management Permits (tags for antlerless deer) widely available, and hunters should make every effort to fill their tags, sharing extra venison with friends and neighbors.
Following the regular deer and bear seasons in the Southern Zone, late bowhunting and muzzleloading seasons will run from December 14 to December 22. Hunters taking part in these special seasons must possess either bowhunting or muzzleloading privileges.
In the Northern Zone, the regular deer and bear hunting season opened October 24 and will close at sunset on December 6. This zone generally includes the Adirondacks, Tug Hill Plateau, Eastern Lake Ontario Plain and the Champlain and St. Lawrence Valleys. A late bowhunting and muzzleloading season for deer will be open in portions of the Northern Zone from December 7 to December 13.
Help Protect NY Deer from Chronic Wasting Disease
Though no new cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) have been found in New York deer since 2005, DEC continues to take the threat of CWD very seriously. Hunters should too. CWD is always fatal to deer. If introduced, CWD could spread rapidly and will be practically impossible to eliminate from the wild deer herd once established. Preventing CWD from entering New York is the most effective disease management strategy.
Hunters can help protect New York’s deer herd from CWD by following these tips:
•If you hunt outside of New York, debone or quarter your deer before bringing it back, and follow the law about importing carcasses or carcass parts from outside of New York. See CWD Regulations for Hunters.
•Do not use deer urine-based lures or attractant scents.
•Dispose of carcass waste in a landfill, not just out on the landscape.
•Report any deer that appears sick or acting abnormally.
•Hunt only wild deer and support fair chase hunting principles.
Hunters are encouraged to consider passing shots on young, small-antlered bucks
Most New York deer hunters would enjoy seeing more, older, larger bucks when they go afield each fall and many are doing what they can to make that a reality, by choosing to voluntarily pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks. As a result, hunters in New York are now taking more older bucks than ever before – more than half of all antlered bucks taken in 2014 were at least 2 years old, and the number of at least 3 year old bucks taken in recent years is up about 30 percent compared to the early 2000s and up approximately 80 percent from the early 1990s. The choices hunters make matter to the structure of the deer population. This year’s 110-pound yearling spike or 4-point buck could become a handsome 140-pound 6- or 8-point 2-year old, and then a striking 8- or 10-point 180-pound 3-year old buck, with more meat for the table each year. Patience and restraint pays dividends in older, larger bucks, and in many areas, does and doe tags are readily available for hunters looking to fill the freezer this year.
Report Your Harvest – Be Part of Game Management
Hunter contributions to deer and bear management don’t end when an animal is harvested. All successful hunters are required to report their harvest of deer and bear to the DEC within 7 days of harvesting the animal. However, DEC data suggest that only about 45 percent of successful deer hunters actually report their harvest. Failure to report is a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law, and it reduces the data DEC can use to manage deer and bear populations. Hunters may report via DEC’s online game harvest reporting system or by calling the toll-free automated reporting system at 1-866-GAME-RPT (1-866-426-3778). To foster successful reporting of harvested deer and bear, DEC has extended the hours of its call center to include Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. during the first two weekends of the Southern Zone Regular Season to assist hunters that have difficulty reporting their harvest via the automated reporting system.
Other Reminders for the 2015 Southern Zone Regular Hunting Season
New legislation allows the use of rifles for big game hunting in Genesee, Schenectady and Seneca counties. See “Rifle, Shotgun, and Bow Areas” and for other areas where rifles can be used.
Crossbows may be used during the regular deer seasons in all parts of New York, except Westchester and Suffolk counties, and the bow-only portions of Albany and Monroe counties. Crossbows may also be used during the late muzzleloading season for hunters possessing a muzzleloading privilege. See Crossbow Hunting for license and training requirements, general rules and season opportunities.
The Deer Management Focus Area will continue to assist communities in the Ithaca area with the burden of overabundant deer populations.
Mandatory antler restrictions (3 points on one side minimum) remain in effect in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3J, 3K, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S, and 4W during all seasons for all hunters 17 years and older.
Successful bear hunters are asked to submit a tooth of their bear so DEC can age the bear and monitor bear population dynamics. See Bear Tooth Collection for instructions.
Remember, Hunger Has A Cure… The Venison Donation Program is a great way to help those less fortunate while also assisting with deer management in New York.
Important Firearms Safety tips to remember include:
•Point your gun in a safe direction;
•Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
•Be sure of your target and beyond;
•Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
•Remember to wear Hunter Orange.
For specific descriptions of regulations and open areas, hunters should refer to the 2015-2016 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide webpage available on DEC’s website. Hunters are urged to review all regulations and safety tips contained in the guide.