As the saying goes , “it was inevitable”. So what does the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) have in store for us ? Plenty it seems so let’s dig in and see what’s going to happen to deer hunting in NY…..
This one has been brewing for quite some time so I guess we can’t be surprised. The DEC has made it clear the rules are changing and soon. By that I mean this season, which will require the DEC to come out with the plan real soon. The DEC has info right here for all to review if interested. One thing that stands out to me is the DEC isn’t hiding behind some kind of “healthier herd , balanced herd ” BS . They’re coming right out and admitting this is about growing bigger bucks and nothing more. That alone is a shock but personally I appreciate their honesty.
We’ve had some level of antler restrictions here in NY the last few years. Can’t tell you I know much about the results because they seem to be difficult to find. The area where they’ve done it is in the Catskill region which is far from me and I don’t know anyone who hunts there. Let’s assume there are bigger bucks there since the restrictions were put in place. The DEC sounds as though their plan will have the capability to be customized , so to speak , for different regions of the state. Not sure what this exactly means but the Northern Zone is much different than the Southern Zone so I can see where they need to have some flexibility in how they manage all this. So where do we stand on all this? I’ve got some opinions and experiences so you can bet I’ll share them. I’m interested in yours so please feel free to share.
I made the comment about the motivating factor here being “bigger bucks”. I say that having watched, participated, listened and learned over quite a few years and seeing what really happens and why. 1st off I’ll tell you upfront I don’t buy into any of the “healthy , balanced herd” BS that’s being sold to us hunters 24/7 by the holier than tho hunting experts. THIS is about growing bigger bucks and that’s all it’s ever been about. While managing my own property over the years I’ve passed up more bucks than I could possibly count. The reason is I simply didn’t want to end my season by filling my tag too early. This resulted in years where I never filled my tag. No complaints from me , that’s just how it goes sometimes. While I was passing up all these bucks over the years I was keeping track of what I saw , when I saw it and if I saw that buck again. I’ve done this for years and I’m talking about quite a few bucks. In 2012 alone I let 17 different bucks walk past me and never killed one of them. What I proved is what has been proven by many before me and many more will do the same. If you’re going to pass up bucks you better understand this does NOT mean you will have bigger bucks next year on your property. It simply doesn’t work like that. The reason is bucks spend most of their lives moving , they move continuously for years before they settle down and call someplace home. Maybe 1 out of 100,000 bucks actually reach that 5-6 yr old stage where they settle down. So while you’re passing up bucks you’re relying on hunters a few miles away to do the same in order for you to see bigger deer the next year and so on. The bucks you let walk are not going to be there next year, so your discipline will benefit someone else the following year and not you. This is how it goes and it’s been proven all over the continent.
Let me share some words straight from the DEC to give you an idea where they’re coming from. This from their “announcement” about antler restrictions :
Regardless, many hunters would prefer to see DEC enact regulations to further reduce harvest of yearling bucks. A 2010 survey by Cornell University found that 57% of hunters across the state think mandatory ARs are a good idea. But the survey also found that 54% of hunters think voluntary ARs are a good idea and 50% like a 1-buck per hunter rule.
I’m not aware of a single hunter who participated in this survey but I can tell you right now there isn’t a single hunter in NYS who supports “1-buck per hunter rule”. That is simply fabricated and has no place in any plan for managing our deer. As for the rest of it I would most likely believe it. We all know a lot of hunters have been voluntarily practicing antler restrictions for years, myself included. I would guess most have seen the same results I have in that there hasn’t been any noticeable change in the amount of older bucks we see. What the DEC has made pretty clear is this : we either go along with this or they will shorten our seasons and reduce hunting opportunities. Not sure this is a great strategy to sell an idea but this is what they will do so we’ll end up buying into this. The bottom line is we are going to be hunting under different rules very soon so we better get on board and not end up losing a couple weeks off our season because we don’t agree with this.
The whole strategy behind growing bigger bucks is to have as much land as possible committed to the same goal. Letting young deer walk and growing older deer can only be accomplished by “locking up” a whole lot of ground to the same rules. I’ve read about this countless times while trying it myself to see what actually happens. Many of the “experts” have claimed you need to have a minimum of a square mile committed to antler restrictions or you won’t see any benefit. I believe this is seriously under estimated in that it will take several square miles in a antler restriction program or you won’t see ANY benefit. The only real way to accomplish all this is to institute rules/laws that will require it to happen. It’s been done in Pennsylvania and from what I can see it’s working. I say working in that there seems to be a whole lot more bigger bucks coming from Pa. these days than there was in the past. But there’s another side to all this , there always is.
The drive from my house over to my hunting land is about 15 minutes. My route takes me through a state forest , public hunting land , where I see the same guys every year hitting the woods whenever they can. You know the guys I’m talking about , the guys who love this sport as much as anyone and take every opportunity to get in the woods. They don’t own any land so they hunt the state land and hope for the best. Many show up driving the family car through the snow just hoping they can make it to a parking spot they can not only get in but get out! These guys can’t get away from work during the week so they’re limited to what ever time they can grab on the weekend when their family commitments allow. These are the people who will feel the impact of this , at least in the short term and maybe the long term. I’m not going to bang the drum against antler restrictions but I’m also not going to ignore the guy I’m describing here because these are the people who represent the majority of our group. My hope is this whole idea works in a way the average guy I’m talking about still has an opportunity to fill his tag and keeps him/her in this sport because we cannot survive without them.
Soon we will have the details from the DEC and I’ll be sure to share them here. In the meantime I’m open to any discussion any of you want to have regarding antler restrictions in NY. We all have opinions about this and they all should be heard. Speaking of which , the DEC says they have been “studying” this idea for years and have solicited input from hunters. This is news to me and I follow this stuff pretty closely. Oh well , we can’t expect to truly be heard when the wheels are already in motion. So we’ll sit back and see what comes of this. Thanks for stopping by and please share this with friends and offer comments. If you’re one of the many who’s looking for hunting land in NY to purchase well you know I have it! Click or call (800) 260 – 2148 any time and we can talk about what properties I have right now and especially the ones I have coming soon! Thanks again for stopping by. mj