DEC recently announced the release of their final statewide Deer Management Plan touting, “Science Determines Plan to Improve Deer Management, Provide New Hunting Opportunities, and Make Hunting Even Safer.“
Commissioner Basil Seggos stated, “The plan is the product of public input, expert review, and sound science that will improve the management of white-tailed deer across New York State. In addition, to enact several management recommendations included in the plan, today DEC issued proposed regulations that are available for public comment until August 8, 2021.”
This is the revised, second-edition of the deer plan mapping out the next step forward in DEC's effort to, “…manage deer responsibly to protect the environment and public safety.”
The commissioner summarized, "The plan aligns public values for deer with ecological data to advance management decisions that benefit deer, deer habitats, and New Yorkers."
The finalized plan, which is available on DEC's website, outlines strategies to manage deer populations across a range of population levels and diverse deer-related impacts, in rural, urban, and suburban areas. It proposes to enhance DEC programs providing relief to landowners and the public experiencing deer damage and conflicts, while seeking to protect New York's deer from the devastating potential of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
This is particularly timely in light of the recent confirmed detection of CWD in Pennsylvania’s Warren County which shares a border with NY. DEC went on to say the plan achieves its goals and objectives while maintaining NY’s rich deer hunting tradition.
DEC had released a draft of the management plan for public review and comment in late fall of 2020. The final Deer Management Plan includes revisions and clarifications gleaned from DEC's review of more than 2,000 comments submitted by individuals, organizations, and elected officials.
Major elements of the plan include:
Establishing desired deer population trajectories for 23 ecologically unique regions of the state using an assessment of deer impacts on forest regeneration and public preferences for deer population changes;
Monitoring deer populations for disease and taking steps to reduce disease risk;
Providing additional hunter opportunity and increasing antlerless harvest strategically where needed;
Promoting hunter choice for buck harvest by encouraging hunters who want to take older, larger-antlered bucks to voluntarily pass up young, small-antlered bucks;
Encouraging deer hunters to use non-lead ammunition to reduce lead exposure of non-target wildlife;
Assisting communities to prevent and respond to local deer overabundance through development of community-based deer management programs;
Working with landowners and land managers to monitor deer browse impacts on forests with the Assessing Vegetation Impacts of Deer (AVID) protocol; and
Understanding and addressing public values and interests regarding deer and deer management decisions.
New Regulations Proposed
To begin the implementation of portions of the management plan, DEC states it’s proposing rule changes that will improve deer management, simplify big game hunting, expand hunting opportunity, and increase hunter safety.
The plan proposals include:
Strategically increase antlerless harvest where necessary by establishing a 9-day season for antlerless deer beginning the 2nd Saturday in September with firearms in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 3M, 3R, 8A, 8F, 8G, 8J, 8N, 9A, and 9F, and with bows in WMUS 1C, 3S, 4J, and 8C;
Reinstate either-sex deer harvest opportunity during the early muzzleloader season in WMUs 6A, 6F, and 6J;
Extend the legal hunting hours for deer and bear to begin 30 minutes before meteorological sunrise and end 30 minutes after meteorological sunset, consistent with legal hunting hours in most other states; and
Increase hunter safety by requiring all hunters pursuing deer or bear with a firearm, or anyone accompanying them, to wear a solid or patterned fluorescent orange or fluorescent pink hat or vest or jacket.
In addition to implementing portions of the deer plan, the regulatory proposal includes a change to simplify bear hunting in the Adirondack portion (WMUs 5A, 5C, 5F, 5G, 5H, 5J, 6C, 6F, 6H, and 6J) of the Northern Zone by extending the regular firearm season to cover the entire hunting period. Currently, the season structure allows bears to be taken with rifles and shotguns for 72 out of 79 days, excluding the seven-day period where bears could only be taken with a muzzleloader, crossbow, or bow. Under the proposal, hunters would be able to use any implement during the entire 79-day season.
Details of the proposals are available on DEC's website. DEC is accepting public comments on the proposed regulation changes through August 8, 2021.
The email is: WildlifeRegs@dec.ny.gov (type "Big Game Hunting Rules" in the subject line).
Two key planks of DEC’s final Deer Management Plan likely to garner the attention of deer and bear hunters in NY are the extension of hunting hours to ½ hour before sunrise and ½ hour after sunset, and the requirement to wear hunter orange while hunting big game with a firearm.
The extension of legal hunting hours will undoubtedly give hunters a tremendous edge in opportunities to harvest deer and bear as those are the times when they are naturally most active and thus susceptible to harvest.
The hunter orange requirement has been a lightning rod of controversy among hunters. Many are completely opposed to it with while others remain ardent supporters of the safety measure.DEC has long touted hunters who wear hunter orange are seven times less likely to be shot.
Without weighing in on the merits or lack thereof of either change, I will say if you are going to allow hunters to take big game with firearms during lower visibility hours, it’s a good ideato add the safety component requiring wearing hunter orange.
Other than self-inflicted Hunter Related Shooting injuries, visibility, or the lack of it, is a critical variable in two-shooter hunting incidents. That being said, let the debate, comments, opposition and support begin.
Happy Hunting, Fishing, and Trapping until next time.
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