Albany, NY - December 20, 2013 - For most New York hunters, the close of the Southern Zone's late muzzlelaoder season on Tuesday ended their deer hunting for the year. While we won't have a final tally of the 2013/14 deer harvests until all of the hunting seasons close (end of January on Long Island) and the data are analyzed, hunter harvest reports give us a preliminary picture of the season.
The first weekend of the Southern Zone (SZ) regular season typically accounts for 25-30% of the total statewide deer take. This year, reported deer take during the opening 2 days of the SZ regular season ran about 9% below reported take during the opening weekend in 2012. Likely this was due to the warm weather and abundant natural foods which may have reduced deer movements. Typically, these opening weekend effects tend to wash out over time as the season progresses. However, the reporting gap widened during the week before Thanksgiving to about 15% fewer reports than 2012. Fortunately, following Thanksgiving, hunters closed the gap and we ended with harvest reports during the SZ season slightly exceeding the 2012 level (up 1%).
The final deer harvest will be calculated from all the harvest reports in combination with a reporting rate - the proportion of harvested deer that are reported. We determine the reporting rate by checking thousands of hunter killed deer across the state each year. Over the past few years, our data indicate that only about 45% of successful hunters report their deer, even though it is a legal requirement.
We were aiming for increased antlerless harvests this year to reduce deer populations in many areas of the state (see 2013 Deer Season Forecast, www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/37304.htm). We hoped to issue about 18% more Deer Management Permit (DMPs, doe tags) than 2012, though by the end of the SZ seasons, hunters had picked up only about 7% more DMPs. It's too early to know how the harvest was distributed, but it's likely that we will continue to need even higher antlerless harvest in some areas over the coming years to achieve the desired population reductions.
For those hunters that aren't ready to put the gun or bow away yet, opportunities still exist in a few areas. Hunters may continue to take deer with a bow in Suffolk County (WMU 1C) and Westchester County (WMU 3S) until December 31. Then a special firearms season runs in Suffolk County on weekdays January 6-31, 2014 (www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/40409.html). Also, hunters registered with the Deer Management Focus Area program in a portion of Tompkins County may participate in the antlerless-only deer hunt from January 11-31, 2014 (see www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/82382.html for details on the DMFA program).
And in case you had not heard, all license sales and game harvest reporting will be suspended on December 26, when we make the transition from one license vendor to another. We expect this "blackout" period to extend for one to two weeks, so if you still need to purchase a license, do it now! And if you harvest a deer during the blackout period, please be sure to report it as soon as possible when the system is live again.