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2017 deer take announced by the DEC

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April 7, 2018 12:00 am

On April 3, DEC announced the results of the 2017-18 deer take. The annual tally was released nearly a month and a half earlier than last year’s, which came on on May 18.

In total, 203,427 deer were harvested during the 2017-18 hunting season representing an approximate 5-percent decrease from that of the previous deer season.

The decline is despite early season reports to the contrary showing a substantial increase in the harvest. When the final numbers were tallied, however, it appears harvest rates leveled off as the season went on.

According to DEC, “The 2017 estimated deer take included 95,623 antlerless deer and 107,804 antlered bucks, an estimated five percent fewer deer than the previous year. Statewide, this represents a 10-percent decline in antlerless harvest and a buck harvest nearly identical to 2016. Hunters in the Northern Zone took 25,351 deer, including 18,074 adult bucks. In the Southern Zone, hunters took 178,076 deer, including 89,730 adult bucks.”

The 10 percent decrease in antlerless take was surprising considering DEC increased the overall availability of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) for 2017. One can only speculate as to the reason for the decline in the antlerless take in light of more available DMPs.

The report went on to state, “DEC wildlife biologists have noted two important and encouraging items that emerged from the 2017 deer harvest. First, with 53.3 percent of the adult buck harvest averaging 2.5 years or older, hunters took an estimated 57,494 older bucks, setting a record in total number and greatest percentage of older bucks in the harvest.”

Along with the record number of percentage of older bucks in the 2017 take, DEC reported the lowest number of yearling bucks taken in NY in its history of reporting such findings. That’s welcome news to hunters who want to reduce yearling (1.5-year-old) buck take, leaving more older bucks on the landscape.

DEC touts its voluntary, “Let Young Bucks Go, and Watch Them Grow” program as a key factor in that outcome. While the program, which began in 2016, may have had some affect, I believe it simply fueled an increase in the natural evolution of deer hunters who were already moving in that direction.

While many hunters reject the forced imposition of antler restrictions, many agree that voluntarily passing up yearling bucks fits within their harvest strategy. Another factor to consider that may be partially responsible for the increase in the take of 2.5-plus year old bucks is there were more of them on the landscape. This could be due to the voluntary passing up of young bucks, combined with mandatory antler restrictions in some Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).

2017 also experienced a record-low take of yearling bucks. At 46.7 percent, it is down significantly from the 62 percent take of yearlings in 2008, and 70 percent harvest of 1.5 year-old bucks in the 1990s. DEC stated in its report, even when excluding WMUs that have mandatory antler restrictions, only “50.9 percent of the adult buck harvest were yearlings, still the lowest percentage on record.”

Another interesting finding in the report was the number of hunters who reported their deer increased from 44 percent in 2016 to 50 percent in 2017. That’s a substantial improvement.

DEC is taking credit for the upswing due to their urging hunters to comply through their, “Take It -Tag It – Report It” campaign. DEC has definitely made it easier to report harvests by allowing you to report by phone, on the web, and by using mobile apps.

They correctly state,” Harvest reports are critically important for accurate monitoring of deer harvests, and DEC encourages hunters to continue to contribute to the management process by complying with the reporting requirements.”

As a former law enforcement representative on DEC’s Deer Management Team (now the Big Game Team), I can assure hunters it’s in their best interest to report your deer and other harvests.

Some believe if they don’t report their deer, DEC might increase harvest opportunities in their area. This is not advisable as wildlife management is a science that relies on the accurate input of data.

You may have heard the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out,” in reference to the value of information processed through a database. That is definitely the case here. In order for DEC to maximize your harvest opportunities, they must have the most current and reliable information available.

Following the close of last year’s deer season, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement conducted a crack-down on hunters who failed to report their deer in some regions. In Region 4, which comprises the Capitol District, east to the Massachusetts border and west to our border with Pennsylvania, Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) conducted a targeted enforcement initiative resulting in penalties for those who failed to report their deer as required.

Such measures can have the effect of increasing reporting rates.

Notable Numbers

• 14.5 and 0.5 — number of deer taken per square mile in the unit with the highest (WMU 8N) and lowest (WMU 5F) harvest density.

• 46.7 percent — portion of the adult buck harvest that were yearlings (1.5 years old), the lowest in New York history and down from 62 percent a decade ago and 70 percent in the 1990s. Excluding units with mandatory antler restrictions, 50.9 percent of the adult buck harvest were yearlings, still the lowest percentage on record.

• 65 percent — portion of eligible junior hunters that participated in the 2016 Youth Deer Hunt.

• 14,372 — number of hunter harvested deer checked by DEC staff in 2017.

• 2,402 — deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in 2017-18; none tested positive. DEC has tested more than 50,000 deer for CWD since 2002.

Deer harvest data is gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required of all successful hunters and DEC’s examination of more than 14,000 harvested deer at check stations and meat processors.

Statewide harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources and calculating the total harvest from the reporting rate for each zone and tag type. A full report of the 2017-18 deer harvest, as well as past deer and bear harvest summaries, is available at Deer and Bear Harvests.

To view the 2017-18 Deer Take Report in its entirety, go to https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/wildlife_pdf/2017deerrpt.pdf.

News and Notes

— CORRECTION: The 2018 Youth Turkey Season Dates are April 21 and 22.

— Time’s running out to get your Hunter Safety Certificate in time for the Youth Turkey Season at the following Hunter Education Classes:

* Norton Hill Wildlife Club

946 Big Woods Road

Greenville, NY 12083

Friday, April 13, 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, April 14, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

You must call Bill at 518-622-3795, or Rusty at 518-634-7078 to preregister.

* Prattsville Community Church

14464 Main Street

Prattsville, NY 12468

Saturday, April 14, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

* Canaan Conservation Club, Inc.

779 Frisbee Street

Canaan, NY 12029

Saturday, April 14, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* Berne Conservation Club

Route 156

Berne, NY 12023

Saturday, April 14, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Kinderhook Sportsmens Club

376 Fowler Lake Road

Kinderhook, NY 12106

Saturday, April 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* Kalicoontie Rod And Gun Club

Livingston, NY 12541

Saturday, April 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information on these and additional classes and specific requirements, go to www.dec.ny.gov and search Hunter Education Classes

— The Roe Jan Creek Boat Club and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office are hosting a NYS Safe Boating Class at the Roe Jan Creek Boat Club on May 5 and 6 from 1:30-5:30 p.m. You have to attend both sessions to earn a Safe Boater Certificate. You must register for the free class by April 22. To register and for more information, call Barbara at 518-828-7173 (from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.), or Chrissy at 518-9291.

Remember to report poaching violations by calling 1-844-DEC-ECOS.

Happy hunting, trapping, and fishing until next time.

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*If you have a fishing or hunting report, photo, or event you would like to be considered for publication, you can send it to: huntfishreport@gmail.com