New York DEC Releases 2006-2007 Deer Harvest Numbers

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced the results of the 2006-07 deer hunting seasons including deer harvest, information on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and hunter safety statistics.

During the 2006-07 deer hunting seasons, hunters harvested slightly more than 189,100 deer, including approximately 96,600 bucks and 92,500 antlerless deer. After three years of declining deer takes, results from this past season represent a slight increase from the 2005 deer harvest. The slight increase was expected following management actions in 2004 and 2005 intended to rebuild and stabilize the deer population in many areas of the State, since many Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) were below desired levels.

"New York hunters once again had a safe and successful deer season," said Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner, Carl Johnson. "Our harvest results from this past season are right about where we projected, and we are encouraged to see modest growth in many Southern Zone units. We are also very pleased that despite testing almost 8,000 deer in 2006, no new cases of Chronic Wasting Disease have been detected."

The 2006 harvest of almost 96,600 bucks was an encouraging 8% increase over the 89,200 bucks taken in 2005, suggesting that deer populations in many portions of the State are growing slowly and recent management actions are working. The 2006 antlerless take remained stable from 2005, despite a nominal increase in Deer Management Permits (DMPs) for 2006. DMPs are issued for harvest of antlerless deer only, and their availability varies among WMUs depending on the status of the deer population in each WMU relative to objective levels.

"Our intent in much of the State was for conservative antlerless harvest this season to maintain moderate population growth in areas hit hard by severe winter conditions and high harvests several years ago," said Acting Executive Deputy Commissioner, Carl Johnson. "While the 2006 harvest suggests deer populations are growing over much of the State, the Department acknowledges that increases may not be as fast or as large as many hunters would prefer. However, the number of WMUs with deer populations near desired levels is increasing, and with the conservative antlerless harvest this past year, we anticipate continued success in achieving objectives over the next few years."

Since 1990, DEC has used local Citizen Task Forces to establish deer population objectives for most WMUs. The task forces represent a broad range of public interests and consider concerns of many stakeholder groups including farmers, foresters, conservationists, landowners, hunters, and others. The desired deer population level of each WMU is expressed as a Buck Take Objective (BTO) and reflects the approximate buck take per square mile that would be taken when the deer population is close to the desired level.

Deer populations vary considerably throughout New York, and currently about 25% of the WMUs have deer populations that are within 10% of desired levels. About 20% of the units have deer populations greater than desired, while the remaining 55% of the units have lower than desired deer populations. The goal of DEC's deer management program is to maintain deer numbers at levels that meet local interests and habitat conditions, while also providing quality hunting opportunities for New York's 550,000 deer hunters.

In 2006, muzzleloader hunting once again gained in popularity with over 220,000 hunters holding the muzzleloading privilege and a total take of more than 15,700 deer, 67% of which were antlerless deer. This is the highest muzzleloading take on record. New York's 200,000 archers also faired well in 2006, with a take of almost 29,500 deer. Bowhunters continued to show strong preference for bucks, which comprised 65% of their harvest.

Take on Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits remained just under 10,000 deer, virtually unchanged from 2005. DMAP permits are issued for focused removal of antlerless deer on specific properties and are important for reducing deer related damage or for meeting land management or other deer management goals.

Western New York continues to lead the State in deer harvest densities, with the top five counties being: Yates County (10.4 total deer/mi2), Genesee County (9.4 total deer/mi2), Tompkins County (8.5 total deer/mi2), Ontario County (8.3 total deer/mi2), and Tioga County (8.1 total deer/mi2). However, total harvest is strongly impacted by the number of DMPs available in an area and thus the harvest of antlerless deer. A more accurate picture of deer densities is revealed by the density of buck harvest. The top five counties in New York for buck harvest density were: Allegany County (4.2 bucks/mi2), Yates County (3.9 bucks/mi2), Tompkins County (3.6 bucks/mi2), Wyoming County (3.6 bucks/mi2), and Orange County (3.6 bucks/mi2).

Pilot Antler Restriction Program

New York's pilot antler restriction program began in 2005 in WMUs 3C and 3J, located primarily in Ulster County, and was expanded in 2006 to include WMUs 3H and 3K, primarily in Sullivan County. The antler restriction stipulates that bucks taken in WMUs 3C, 3H, 3J and 3Khave 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 (1 years old), allowing them to survive to older ages.

Buck take in each of these units is following the expected trend: a significant drop during the first year of the program and an increase toward objective levels in the second year. The pilot program has demonstrated some success in shifting the age composition of the buck harvest, as harvest has changed from roughly 60% yearlings, 30% 2.5 year olds, and 10% 3.5+ year olds prior to the antler restriction to 35% yearlings, 40% 2.5 year olds, and 25% 3.5+ year old bucks with the antler restriction.

Chronic Wasting Disease

Efforts continued with CWD surveillance through sampling of hunter killed deer statewide and mandatory deer check in the Oneida-Madison County CWD Containment Area. Despite testing over 7,900 deer, including 1,800 deer from the CWD Containment Area in 2006, no new 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 in 2005 after the disease was detected in 5 captive and 2 wild deer in Oneida County. Since 2002, over 18,700 samples have been collected throughout the state, including 3,900 samples from the Oneida-Madison County CWD Containment Area.

Hunter Safety

New York has an extremely safety-conscious generation of hunters, largely due to the annual efforts of over 3,000 dedicated volunteer Sportsman Education instructors.

The extraordinary safety record of hunters in New York continued in 2006. With only 35 hunting related shooting incidents, 2006 was the 4th safest year since such records have been maintained. There were only 19 two-party shooting incidents in 2006, a record low. However, there were 16 self-inflicted incidents, which is above the 5-year average of 10 incidents per year. Twenty of last year's incidents, including the single hunting fatality of 2006, occurred in big game seasons. Comparing these figures to the previous decades shows a remarkable improvement in safety.

While hunter numbers have declined in New York over the past decade, the decline in hunting related shooting incidents is primarily attributable to improved hunter safety. The rate of hunting incidents (incidents per 100,000 hunters) is declining much faster than the number of hunters. During the 1960s, the incident rate was 19 incidents per 100,000 hunters. Since 2000, the incident rate is one-third of that, averaging 6.3 incidents per 100,000 hunters.

For a complete list of totals by WMU or County please visit: http://www.dec.state.ny.us/website/press/pressrel/2007/200718.html.