Record Whitetail Harvest in 2002

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced harvest results of the 2002 deer hunting seasons. Opportunities to hunt for white-tailed deer in New York State are among the best in the northeast and span several months throughout the fall. Numerous modifications to deer hunting laws, licenses, tags and practices afield were implemented during the past season and were intended to increase the overall chances of success for deer hunters.

The total take in the 2002 season was approximately 308,000 deer, and includes more than 128,000 bucks and nearly 180,000 antlerless deer. This is a new record high total harvest, and is approximately 9 percent higher than the 2001 take of 282,000 deer. The 2002 buck take is the second highest buck take recorded by New York hunters.

"This past year, DEC implemented several improvements to provide deer hunters with greater opportunities previously unavailable to New York State's sportsmen and sportswomen," Commissioner Crotty said. "These enhancements were designed to promote hunter participation and increase the antlerless harvest, and the record deer take of 2002 reflects the combined benefits of these important changes. Our efforts, combined with the dedication of New York's hunters, have resulted in unprecedented success."

New York's deer hunters achieved the desired harvest of about 110,000 adult females, a critical goal in helping to control the State's deer population. DEC issued more than 668,000 deer management permits to hunters during the initial instant lottery, and an additional 102,000 deer management permits during the extended first come-first served application period. These permits are valid only for the taking of antlerless deer and serve as the cornerstone for statewide deer management efforts.

In New York State, Steuben County had the highest deer take in 2002, with 23,002 deer, including 8,176 bucks harvested. Allegany County was second, with 20,873 deer, including 7,292 bucks, followed by Cattaraugus County, with 19,788 deer, including 7,001 bucks. Chautauqua County, with harvests of 13,034 deer, including 4,546 bucks, and St. Lawrence County with 11,623 deer, including 5,664 bucks, rounded out the top five counties in the State.

Two deer management programs that are intended to enhance deer harvests had positive results during the 2002 season. The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) offers site specific relief for farmers and others suffering from deer damage. The DMAP program has been in existence since 1999 and continues to grow, with more than 12,000 deer taken by hunters from approximately 2,200 problem areas during the past season.

The venison donation program, through the Venison Donation Coalition, also expanded last year and New York hunters donated more than 85,000 pounds of ground venison to charitable institutions during its fourth year of operation.

Deer populations vary throughout New York, and approximately half of the current Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) have deer populations that are above desired levels. 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 650,000 deer hunters. For more than a decade, DEC has utilized 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 farmers, foresters, conservationists, landowners and hunters. Each WMUs desired deer population level is expressed as a Buck Take Objective and reflects the approximate buck take per square mile that would be taken when the deer population is close to the desired level.