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Deer harvest increases, but guidelines not being followed

May 31, 2017
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

Hunters in New York took more deer last year, but the state says that less than half of all hunters are following reporting guidelines required by law.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation released its final analysis of the 2016 hunting season and found the number of deer taken was up five percent over the 2015 season, including a 7.5 percent increase in the buck harvest.

The state also noted that 56.6 percent of all hunters "ignored their responsibility to report their harvest as required by law," a release from the DEC said. The state also said its law enforcement officers have increased their enforcement of the reporting law.

Due to the lack of reporting from hunters, the DEC estimates the number of deer taken in a given Wildlife Management Unit to develop the final report. Altogether, hunters across the state took a total of 231,061 deer, including 107,006 bucks.

In the northern zone, there were 24,674 taken, with 16,495 bucks making up a full two-thirds of all deer shot. In the southern zone, hunters took 188,387 total deer. Bucks made up less than half that number, with 90,511 deer taken.

One the reasons for the discrepancy in numbers between the southern and northern zones can be boiled down to density. Deer are far less common in the Adirondacks than in other parts of the state, so much so that two of the WMUs that cover most of the Adirondack Park had a take density of just one-half of a deer for every square mile. For contrast, the highest density WMU in the Rochester area had a taken density of 16.2 deer per square mile.

In Franklin County, a total of 1,205 deer were taken, including 932 bucks. More than 1,300 deer were shot in Essex County, with bucks making up 1,033 of those. Hamilton County hunters shot 737 bucks and 100 does.

While the number of hunters has been in steady decline, the youth hunt and muzzleloader and bow hunting were also down last season.

The youth hunt was down almost five percent, with 7,404 kids, ages 14 to 15, taking 1,162 deer. The DEC estimates that only 65 percent of all eligible youth hunters took part. Youth hunters are allowed to take either an antlered or antlerless deer or black bear. All youth have to be accompanied by an adult with a valid hunting license. Ten black bears were also taken during the youth hunt weekend.

The total number of deer taken by bow, muzzleloader and rifle were down, but the use of crossbows for hunting appears to be on the rise after it was legalized in New York just a few years ago.

Again, due to the lack of reporting, the number of deer taken by each implement is an estimation, but the DEC estimates that there were 138,234 deer taken with rifles and shotguns. This is down almost a full percentage point from the five-year average. Bow hunting made up 21.3 percent last year, down almost half a point, and muzzleloader guns made up just over nine percent, down 1.5 percent.

Crossbow use is up though, making up 4.4 percent of the deer take from an average of 1.3 percent. Handgun use was also down slightly from its low average of 0.6 percent of all deer taken. In 2016, handguns accounted for only 0.4 percent of all the deer shot by hunters.

The DEC has also asked hunters, where there are no rack restrictions, to exercise restraint in shooting younger bucks. This has been an effort to allow younger bucks to mature and become bigger bucks without forcing hunters to pass up deer they may otherwise take.

"In areas where hunters had the freedom to choose what type of buck to take, nearly half of the adult bucks taken this past year were 2.5 years or older," the DEC said. "Yearling bucks were plentiful, a result of strong survival rates through the 2015-16 winter, yet many hunters voluntarily chose restraint."

In the Adirondacks however, where the deer density is lowest in the state, hunters are taking more and more young bucks. In the last two years, the percentage of young male deer killed in the Adirondacks has gone from about 35 percent to more than 50 percent last year. The oldest bucks, those 3.5-years old and older, have remained a steady percentage of bucks taken, hovering in the 20th percentile. But middle-aged buck (2.5-years old) are getting shot less and less.

The DEC also asks hunters to keep a Bowhunter Sighting Log, which is a voluntary effort to get hunters to report on any and all sightings of wild game while out hunting. This log provides detailed information on deer, moose, turkeys and other game animals.

According to the logs submitted, hunters in the Adirondacks saw an average of less than one buck for every 10 hours of hunting.

To read the full report, including a breakdown of deer taken by town, county and WMU, go to



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