New York is Open for Hunting, Spring Turkey Season Starts May 1

Joe Forma Photo

  • Youth Spring Turkey Hunting Weekend is April 25-26
  • Regular NYS Turkey Season opens May 1
  • Hunters Should Always Follow Safety Tips to Prevent Injuries and Limit Spread of COVID-19

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that spring turkey season opens May 1 in all of Upstate New York north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary. In addition, DEC’s annual youth turkey hunting weekend will take place on April 25-26. The youth turkey hunt for junior hunters aged 12 to 15 is open in all of Upstate New York and Suffolk County.

The big gobbler “tom” struts in. Photo by Joe Forma

“Many New Yorkers are eager to spend time outdoors and turkey hunting is one great way to reconnect to nature,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Whether participating in the upcoming youth hunt with your children or heading out on your own in pursuit of a wary gobbler, be sure to hunt safe and hunt smart by following the important guidelines in place both to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support hunting safety.”

Turkey hunters took about 17,000 birds in New York during the 2019 spring season. Spring harvest success is often tied to productivity two years prior, as hunters like to focus on adult gobblers (i.e., two-year-old birds). While the cold, wet start to the 2019 breeding season meant low reproductive success and poor recruitment in many areas, conditions were better in summer 2018. The population gains made in 2018, combined with good overwinter survival because of abundant food in the fall and relatively mild winter conditions this year, may offset 2019’s poor reproductive success.

Important Details for the Youth Turkey Hunt on April 25 and 26

  • Hunters 12-15 years of age are eligible and must hold a hunting license and a turkey permit;
  • Youth 12-13 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 21 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian. Youth 14-15 years of age must be accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or adult over 18 years of age with written permission from their parent or legal guardian;
  • The accompanying adult must have a current hunting license and turkey permit. The adult may assist the youth hunter, including calling, but may not carry a firearm, bow, or crossbow, or kill or attempt to kill a wild turkey during the youth hunt;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • The youth turkey hunt is open in all of upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary and in Suffolk County;
  • The bag limit for the youth weekend is one bearded bird. This bird becomes part of the youth’s regular spring season bag limit of two bearded birds. A second bird may be taken only in Upstate New York, north of the Bronx-Westchester County boundary, beginning May 1;
  • Crossbows may only be used by hunters age 14 or older. In Suffolk and Westchester counties it is illegal to use a crossbow to hunt wild turkeys; and
  • All other wild turkey hunting regulations remain in effect.

Other Important Details for the Spring Turkey Season, May 1-31, 2020:

  • Hunting is permitted in most areas of the state, except for New York City and Long Island;
  • Hunters must have a turkey hunting permit in addition to their hunting license;
  • Shooting hours are from one-half hour before sunrise to noon each day;
  • Hunters may take two bearded turkeys during the spring season, but only one bird per day;
  • Hunters may not use rifles or handguns firing a bullet. Hunters may hunt with a shotgun or handgun loaded with shot sizes no larger than No. 2 or smaller than No. 8, or with a bow or crossbow (except crossbows may not be used in Westchester County);
  • Successful hunters must fill out the tag that comes with their turkey permit and immediately attach it to any turkey harvested;
  • Successful hunters must report their harvest within seven days of taking a bird. Call 1-866-426-3778 (1-866 GAMERPT) or report harvest online at DEC’s Game Harvest Reporting website; and

For more information about turkey hunting in New York, see the 2019-20 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Guide or visit the “Turkey Hunting” pages of DEC’s website.

Hunt Safe, Hunt Smart!

While statistics show that hunting in New York State is safer than ever, mistakes are made each year. Every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable, and DEC encourages hunters to use common sense this season and remember what they were taught in their DEC Hunter Education Course:

  • Point your gun in a safe direction;
  • Treat every gun as if it were loaded;
  • Be sure of your target and beyond;
  • Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot; and
  • Stalking stinks! Set-up with your back against a tree or other object wider than your shoulders and call birds to you.

DEC also encourages all hunters to wear blaze orange or blaze pink when moving between hunting spots to make themselves more visible to other hunters. A blaze orange or blaze pink vest or other material can be hung in a nearby tree when you are set-up and calling birds so other hunters are alerted to your presence.

A hunter education class is required for all new hunters. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, hunter education courses have been cancelled through April 30. To find a hunter education class in your area, visit DEC’s Hunter Education Program website or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332).

“Hunting Safe” now means following social distancing /other guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Purchase licenses and/or turkey permits online to avoid visiting busy stores or because stores may be closed or have limited hours. Licenses and tags purchased online take 10-14 days to arrive, so online purchases for the youth turkey hunt should be made by April 10, and for the regular season by April 16;
  • Hunt close to home. Opt for day trips instead of staying at a hunting camp to avoid close contact with other hunters;
  • Avoid crowds at parking areas and other locations where people congregate. Keep a distance of six feet or more from others;
  • Avoid high-traffic destinations. If a hunting location is crowded, choose a different spot or time to visit. For alternative hunting locations visit DEC’s website.
  • Hunt alone. If hunting with someone not from your household, whether an adult or youth, practice social distancing, take separate vehicles to the hunting location, and make sure to maintain at least six feet of distance. Only share a hunting blind with someone from your household;
  • Carry hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face and wash mouth calls after handling; and
  • If hunters do not feel well, they should stay home. Anyone 70 and older or with a compromised immune system should postpone their trip.
  • For more information about getting outdoors and #RecreateLocal, go to DEC’s Website.

Buy Sporting Licenses Online

DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online to help further limit the community spread of COVID-19. Sporting licenses may be purchased online at any time, and anglers may use their privileges immediately by simply carrying their transaction number (DEC-LS#) with them while afield. Anglers, hunters, and trappers may also use the HuntFishNY mobile app to display an electronic copy of their license. The HuntFishNY app is available for download through the Apple App or Google Play stores. Back tags and carcass tags must still be mailed, and customers should allow 10-14 days for receipt of their tags. Please visit our website for more information about sporting licenses.

Citizen Science Opportunity: DEC Seeks Turkey Hunters for Ruffed Grouse Drumming Survey

Turkey hunters can record the number of ruffed grouse they hear drumming while afield to help DEC track the distribution and abundance of this game bird. To get a survey form, go to DEC’s website or call (518) 402-8883. To participate in DEC’s Summer Wild Turkey Sighting Survey or other wildlife surveys, visit the “Citizen Science” page of DEC’s website.

Youth Ready for Big Game Hunt in New York

– 3-Day Columbus Weekend Special Firearm Season (Oct. 8-10, 2016)
– For Properly Licensed Youth – 14 and 15 years Old

Anticipation and excitement are among reasons why NYS holds a special, early youth firearms season. NOTE: Since this hunt occurs during the second full week of the 6-week regular archery season in NYS, all hunters are encouraged to wear some form of orange for safety/visibility while accessing the woods. Forrest Fisher Photo

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reminds us that this weekend brings a new opportunity for junior hunters, as New York’s annual Youth Big Game Hunt on Columbus Day weekend has expanded to include Black Bear as well as Whitetail Deer.

From October 8 through October 10, properly licensed 14- and 15-year-old youth may use a firearm to hunt big game while accompanied by an experienced, NYS licensed adult hunter.

Each eligible junior hunter is allowed to take one deer (either sex) and one bear. During the youth hunt, antlerless deer taken with a firearm may be tagged with a regular season tag, Deer Management Permit, or Deer Management Assistance Program tags; antlered deer may only be tagged with the regular season tag.

Though junior hunters may have multiple deer tags, they may only take 1 deer with a firearm during the Youth Big Game Hunt.

This special hunting opportunity takes place throughout New York State, except in Suffolk County and specially designated bowhunting-only areas.

Additional rules that apply to junior hunters and their adult mentors can be found in the NYS Hunting & Trapping Guide (pages 36-37) or on the DEC website.

The Youth Big Game Hunt is a great way for experienced, adult hunters to help the young people in their life have an enjoyable and successful hunt. Get out and enjoy the nice weather and beautiful foliage this weekend while you teach young family members and friends the fine points of big game hunting.

Create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Hunter Safety Education is Key to Hunter Safety

Just like many of us already know, education is the key to success in just about anything in life. From the numbers and illustrations noted on the New York State DEC Hunter Safety Website – and shared here, we can see that New York State’s hunter education courses have proven they are highly effective in fostering safe hunters. Approximately 500,000 licensed hunters spend an estimated 10 to 15 million hunter days afield each year. Recent reports indicate that 2015 had the third-lowest number of hunting-related shooting incidents on record in New York. The 2015 hunting season yielded the first year without a single hunting-related shooting fatality since the 1950s.

These low numbers have been achieved through training and the regulations governing hunting activities in New York State. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Sportsman Education Program is designed to teach and promote safe and effective hunting principles, practices, and strategies. The program has been extremely successful over its 66 years of existence.

huntersafety2Since DEC’s Sportsman Education Program was first introduced in New York State, the number of hunting related accidents have declined significantly. Reports on the number of hunting-related shooting incidents indicate that 2015 had the third lowest number on record in New York with 23 incidents. Starting with 2013, the last three years were the top three safest in New York with this being the first year on record with zero fatalities.

You can view and print the 2015 report by clicking the link: visit the Hunter Safety Statistics web page.

Hunter education courses are held across the state

DEC’s free education courses are offered for Hunter Education, Bowhunter Education, Trapper Education, and Waterfowl Identification. However, courses fill up quickly. Interested new hunters and trappers should sign up for a course soon and complete it before going afield this fall.

DEC’s on-line registration system features a list of all available hunter and trapper education courses and locations. Students can register from any device – smartphone, tablet or computer – 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

huntersafety3Education courses are added continuously throughout the year, so participants should check the on-line system frequently to find a course or call 1-888-HUNT-ED2 (1-888-486-8332) or 518-402-8966.

New course homework requirements instituted this year

All hunter education and trapper education courses now require students to review course materials and complete a homework sheet prior to attending classroom and field sessions. The new homework requirement provides an introduction to hunting in New York State and enhances students’ understanding of the course material. Students should register for the course well in advance of the classroom and field date(s) in order to allow time to complete the homework requirement, which takes approximately three hours. All courses require successful completion of an in-person field day to earn certification for the course.

Access to the homework materials and online homework options can be found on DEC’s website; participants may also follow the guidelines listed in the various course announcements during registration. Actual course manuals and homework sheets are always available from DEC wildlife offices and sportsman education instructors.

New York sets a good example for other states in this great country to reflect upon.

New York State Whitetail Deer News

Abundant deer populations are present in New York State near metropolitan areas and near farm areas too. Identifying the process to provide public highway safety, successful farming and hunter achievement opportunities is a complex process. Joe Forma Photo
  • Pilot Project Concludes on Public Input for Deer Populations
  • Evaluation and Assessment Continues

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a pilot effort in progress to improve collection of public input about deer impacts and desired deer population levels ( This is a collaborative venture with Cornell University and county-level Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices that has concluded and is now being evaluated. The effort was intended to revise and modify the former Citizen Task Force process to improve methods for public input on desirable changes in local deer abundance, consistent with DEC’s Deer Management Plan.

The pilot, which took place in a 1,325-square-mile area of central New York (Wildlife Management Units 7H, 8J and 8S), began with a 2015 survey of residents to gather information on the values they attribute to deer and their experiences with and concerns about deer impacts. Out of the 3,000 surveys that were mailed, 1,456 were completed and returned. Following considerable public outreach to advertise the program, two webinars were held in January 2016 to provide information to residents on DEC’s deer management program, the results of the public survey, deer biology, deer impacts on people and the environment, and deer management issues and challenges. Webinar participants were then asked if they would like to volunteer to be part of an input group, and 12 of the 24 volunteers were selected.

A team of NYSDEC Wildlife Biologists conduct deer assessment checks to provide feedback on age, health and density of the NYS Deer Population during each big game firearms season. Forrest Fisher Photo

This group held two meetings in March 2016 to discuss local deer-related impacts and prioritize issues that they felt DEC should address. These meetings were facilitated by Oneida County officials and two DEC wildlife biologists attended to answer questions and offer advice. Although the group members had been selected to maximize the diversity of deer-related interests and perspectives as much as possible given the low number of volunteers, the prioritization of impacts identified by group participants differed markedly from that indicated by the survey of residents. The number one priority for the input group, deer hunting opportunities, was viewed as least important by the surveyed residents; Lyme disease was identified as the number one management priority by the surveyed residents, but was identified by the input group as least important for DEC to address, along with deer-vehicle collisions.

As group participants observed, making decisions about deer and deer management is a complex task involving diverse stakeholder interests and values, which may be conflicting. Designing a process that can address this complexity satisfactorily is difficult. The pilot process is currently being evaluated by DEC and our Cornell research partners, and we expect to generate recommendations for refinement later in 2016. If, after refinement, the new process proves workable and valuable, DEC intends to implement it on a routine cycle in each aggregate of Wildlife Management Units across the state to respond to changing conditions and attitudes about deer impacts over time. DEC deer managers will consider the public’s prioritization of deer impacts and desires for deer population change, in conjunction with data on the ecological impacts of deer, as they make decisions about changes to deer abundance in each area.

Additional details on the pilot effort and its outcomes are available in the progress report, and DEC will provide more information about future developments as the project continues.

Share the Outdoors with a Youth Turkey Hunt

Steve Schicker, host of Forever Wild Outdoor Adrenaline Adventures that appears on The Sportsman’s Channel, and 5-Time New York State turkey calling champion explains what kids need to do to bag that first bird during youth hunting weekend.

New York’s spring youth turkey hunt is just around the corner, set for April 23-24, 2016.  This is a perfect opportunity to give junior nimrods the opportunity to have the outdoor stage all to themselves – along with an adult mentor, of course.  All the young hunter needs is a Junior Hunting license and a turkey permit.  The accompanying adult must also be a current hunting license and turkey permit holder.

There are some ground rules, as there should be.  The adult mentor can assist in the hunt by calling, but they can carry a firearm, crossbow or bow (or attempt to kill a bird during the youth hunt).  We mentioned crossbows.  Junior hunters must be at least 14 years of age if they wanted to try that challenge.  The reason? Crossbows are not classified as archery equipment in the Empire State.  Crazy!

Junior hunters can harvest one bearded bird during the youth hunt weekend.  This would become part of the two-bird bag allowed during the May 1-31 spring season if they are successful early.  A second bird can be harvested starting May 1.  There isn’t a better way to “Share the Outdoors” than to get a kid out turkey hunting!

According to Steve Schicker, host of Forever Wild Outdoor Adrenaline Adventures that appears on The Sportsman’s Channel, now is when you want to be scouting these birds for the youth turkey hunt weekend or opening day for the regular season.

“I like to drive around and glass the fields,” said Schicker.  Locating the birds should be first on your list.  “Whatever you do, don’t call these birds before the season opens,” emphasized Schicker, a five-time New York State Turkey Calling Champion.  “Try to identify where the birds are roosting and then prepare accordingly.”

Once the hunt is underway, though, the emphasis is placed on safety.  Since we are coming off a year when accidents in the field had no fatalities, it’s important to keep that record going.  Hunters are outfitted entirely in camouflage clothing, so there are certain things you can do to make things safer on the whole.  Some of the other things that Schicker pointed out were:

1) Find a big tree to use as a backdrop and to lean against – larger than your shoulders;

2) Don’t stalk what you think is a bird. It could be another hunter;

3) Never where red, white or blue;

4) Never shoot at sound or movement, always identifying your target before you pull the trigger;

5) Always look beyond your intended target;

6) When another hunter moves into your area, speak up loud and clearly. Don’t wave or move;

The Mosquito Repeller in Realtree Xtra Green™ camo is convenient to carry and is suited for hunting use.

When it comes to the actual hunt, Schicker suggested to try and do some things a little differently if you are hunting on public land or areas that receive a lot of pressure.  “You don’t have to actually call to make a difference if you are trying to pull a bird in.  Try scratching the leaves or the ground to make it appear that there’s another bird there.  You can also sound like a bird coming down out of the roost first thing in the morning, too. Figure out what the birds want on any given day.”

On a personal note, there’s one thing I would encourage every turkey hunter to purchase before heading out in the forests and fields.  One of the most valuable tools in my turkey hunting arsenal is my Thermacell Repeller.  It’s a perfect defense against unwanted guests like mosquitos and makes things more comfortable when you are outdoors in potentially adverse situations.  If you have a new hunter with you, it’s a great way to make sure that insects won’t keep them away from a second hunt.  Two new products include Max Life Insect Repellent pads that last up to 12 hours and a tree hanger that can help to give you maximum coverage when in the woods.  Check out for details. Good luck, stay safe out there and take a kid out hunting!

Figuring out Whitetail Deer Management in New York

Karen Cinelli of Newfane with her biggest Niagara County buck to date. Would you pass on this deer during an antlerless-only season?

To the dismay of many deer hunters in Western New York, the state announced last fall that they would be going through with their plan to adopt new regulations in 12 Wildlife Management Units around the state where deer populations have gotten out of control.  This includes WMUs 9A and 9F which encompass all of Niagara County and all or portions of Erie, Genesee and Orleans counties, among others.

“Responsible management requires periodic adjustment of hunting rules to ensure that deer populations are compatible with local socio-economic interests as well as maintaining a balanced ecosystem,” said NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner, Marc Gerstman, when the rules were announced.  Public input was weighed along with the negative impacts associated with problems like tick-borne diseases, increased deer-car collisions, effects on forest habitat regeneration and general deer overpopulation.

The new regulation called for the first 15 days of the early archery season and all of the late bow and muzzleloader seasons to be antlerless only in the following units around the state: 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A and 9F.  Because management objectives were not being met in these units, the state felt it was prudent to enact these regulations as soon as possible.

On the cover, it seems like a wise decision.  However, numerous hunters were upset over the fact that DEC originally said that the agency would not enact any new deer hunting regulations until 2016 after public hearings were held. It certainly put people like Dale Dunkelberger of Lockport in a tough place. Dunkelberger, who serves as the Region 9 representative to the Conservation Fund Advisory Board and a person “in the know” when it comes to Albany issues as it relates to the DEC, had been fielding negative comments ever since the new regulations were proposed earlier in June of 2015.  He assured people that nothing would take place until 2016.  Bam!  The hammer dropped and Dunkelberger took more heat for it even though he was not directly involved in the decision or the process.  He was only the messanger and he was shot for it.  Well, not really shot, but you know what I mean.

“Many people called me to oppose the changes, but it was difficult to explain to them that I was only one voice, no matter how many calls I received.  Changes normally won’t take place until there’s a review by the Deer Management Task Force for an area, which takes place every five years.  Every call I received was negative.”  Therein lies a lesson to be learned: Let your voices be heard!!

The sporting community carries some massive power when it comes to issues and concerns that affect our outdoor pastimes, be it our Second Amendment rights or the regulations that oversee our natural resources.  Public input is important and DEC failed to perform the basic community outreach as far as this most recent regulation was concerned.  I must stress “adequate” public outreach.  They did have a comment period for the regulation, but after being assured nothing would happen in 2015, most sat back and did nothing.  There was very poor communication with the hunting community.  In the end, there were less than 200 comments according to DEC.  DEC took it as it didn’t matter to deer hunters.  They are now considering rescinding this particular regulation and holding off until 2017 before any more deer management decisions will be made.

On the flip side, how much of a problem was there in places like Niagara County (where I live) and are there only certain areas posing a threat to agricultural lands, gardens or shrubs?  Many hunters we spoke with didn’t see an overabundance of antlerless deer around and they wondered where was this directive was coming from?

To add to the confusion, the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) enables wildlife biologists to assist landowners and resource managers to develop property-specific deer management plans on their property.  Some modifications are being made to make things easier.  Permit durations will be extended from one to three years in length. With Niagara County being primarily private land, shouldn’t this be the way to manage the problem areas?

After it was all said and done, the new regulation kept many serious hunters out of the woods the first 15 days of the archery season.  Niagara Falls taxidermist Tim Young of Niagara Falls (Trophy Room Taxidermy) made the best point when he commented: “When the state changed the archery season and went with an Oct. 1 opener, serious bow hunters found that they could pattern a big buck during that early season before there was any pressure. You might get one good shot at that trophy.  Why would an archery hunter head to an area with a big buck knowing that they wouldn’t be able to shoot it?  They wouldn’t.  Ditto for the late season muzzleloader hunters in the Southern Zone.  It forced them to hunt other areas, and the real reason for the regulations change – reduce the numbers of antlerless deer – just didn’t happen here in Niagara County.  It just made hunters angry.”

NYS: Zero Hunting Fatalities for 2015

2015 is the first year in decades without a reported NYS hunting fatality, marks growing trend of improved hunter safety

The 2015 New York hunting season proved to be one of the safest on record and yielded the first year without a hunting-related shooting fatality since the 1950s, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. DEC’s 2015 Hunting Safety Statistics report (PDF, 141 KB) highlighted a total of only 23 hunting incidents, the third lowest number on record, with 10 incidents self-inflicted and 13 two-party incidents.

“Hunting is a strong and economically important tradition that continues to be safely enjoyed by many in New York State, and I commend hunters of all ages for maintaining high standards in hunting safety,” Acting Commissioner Seggos said. “The trend of declining hunting accidents is proof that our hunter safety education programs are working thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the 3,000 volunteer Sportsman Education Instructors that teach our hunter safety courses every year.”

This is the first year without a hunting-related shooting fatality in New York since record-keeping on hunting statistics began in the mid 1950s. 2015 also continued the trend of declining incidents with New York’s hunting-related shooting incident rate (incidents per 100,000 hunters) declining almost 80 percent since the 1960s. The past five-year average is down to four incidents per 100,000 hunters, compared to 19 per 100,000 hunters in the 1960s.

While hunting is safer than ever, accidents can still happen. It is important to remember that every hunting-related shooting incident is preventable. As this year’s report indicated that eight of the victims in the multi-party incidents were not wearing hunter orange. Accidents can be prevented if hunters follow the primary rules of hunter safety:

  • assume every firearm is loaded;
  • control the firearm muzzle in a safe direction;
  • keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire;
  • identify your target and what is beyond; and
  • wear hunter orange.

“Sportsman education is an essential and required training course for hunters and teaches future sportsmen and women how to be safe, responsible, and ethical hunters and trappers,” Acting Commissioner Seggos said. “Through our NY Open for Fishing and Hunting Initiative, Sportsman Education Programs are being enhanced and our hunting license privileges have been updated to ensure increased opportunities for recreational hunting in the state.”

The declining in hunting-related accidents is evidence that New York has a safety-conscious generation of hunters thanks to the committed efforts of DEC’s volunteer instructors. These trained, DEC-certified instructors teach safe, responsible and ethical outdoor practices and the important roles hunters and trappers serve in natural resource conservation. All courses are offered free of charge and class registration is easy. In 2016, DEC is updating the course curriculum to further enhance the program and implement recommendations identified in a 2015 peer-reviewed analysis if New York’s education program.

For more information on Sportsman Education course registration, access to the course manuals and worksheets, please visit the Sportsman Education Program webpage on DEC’s web site.

New York State Big Game Study Tells Tale

New York Study Plan Result is to Educate and Encourage Hunters to Voluntarily Pass-up Young Bucks 

A multi-year study to guide buck management in New York State found deer hunters prefer to harvest older bucks and that further expanding mandatory antler restrictions is not warranted at this time.  Instead, NYS will encourage hunters to voluntarily pass up shots at younger bucks as a management method to best serve the interests of all deer hunters across the state.

“Through this study, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) engaged with the hunting community to determine the best deer herd management practices to benefit both the deer population and our state’s wildlife enthusiasts,” Acting DEC Commissioner Seggos said.  “DEC staff concluded that promoting voluntary restraint was appropriate given the high level of hunter support for increased availability of older bucks. Using a sound scientific approach to wildlife management is an essential strategy to expand hunting opportunities and growing the hunting economy in New York.”

New York State deer check stations examine deer for health and age, providing important details for successful hunters while gathering data for studies.

DEC and the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Cornell University conducted the study in response to long-standing interests expressed by many hunters for DEC to adopt regulations to reduce the take of yearling bucks (male deer younger than 1.5 years old) to increase the number of older bucks in the population  Moving forward, DEC intends to work with several leading sportsmen groups across the state to educate hunters on their important role in deer management, the impacts of their harvest choices and the likely changes in the deer population as more and more hunters voluntarily refrain from taking young bucks.

The study included a statewide survey of 7,000 deer hunters conducted in fall 2013 by the Human Dimensions Research Unit at Cornell University, a nationally recognized leader in surveys to assess public opinions and attitudes on wildlife-related issues.

Rich Davenport (left), as co-chairman of the New York State Conservation Council Big-Game Committee, has worked closely with New York State DEC wildlife biologists and law enforcement to provide statistical analysis and other date to help identify the interests of sportsmen and other important stake holders in the world of whitetail deer in the Empire State. Forrest Fisher Photo

DEC considered six alternatives to increase the proportion of older bucks in the population, including mandatory antler restrictions during all or portions of the archery and firearms seasons, shorter firearms seasons, a one-buck per hunter per year rule, promoting voluntary restraint by hunters, and a no change option.  DEC analyzed these alternatives for each of the state’s seven distinct buck management zones. The decision process weighted hunter values 3:1 over potential impacts on population management and costs, but the survey found that hunter values did not strongly lean in any one particular direction.

“The issue of antler restrictions has divided our deer hunting community for too many years and I am pleased to see that the DEC used a very structured, non-biased decision-making process to determine the outcome,” said Larry Becker, Chairman of the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council.  “It is most important that everyone understands that DEC has listened to what the majority of the deer hunters in the State want and that this was the primary factor that drove the final decision.  The hunters spoke and DEC listened.”

DEC and conservation education groups plan to work with sportsmen and women and other stakeholder groups, including the New York State Conservation Council (NYSCC) and Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), in the coming year to develop a cooperative, educational effort to encourage hunters to pass up shots at young bucks.  It is clear that hunters’ choices can and do affect the age and size of bucks in our deer herd, and when hunters choose to pass young bucks, it can make a difference for other hunters as well.

“The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is pleased New York has engaged its deer hunters at such a high level to learn their values and desires,” said Kip Adams, QDMA Director of Education & Outreach.  “We feel this is a positive step for the DEC and for hunters, and we are extremely supportive of the Department’s proposed educational campaign on the benefits of protecting yearling bucks.”

“The New York State Conservation Council would like to applaud the hard work of both the DEC Deer Team and Cornell University, as well as the hunting community that participated in this important work,” said Rich Davenport, NYSCC Big Game Committee Co-Chairman.  “We look forward to assisting the DEC and other sportsmen groups with educating the hunters of today and tomorrow on the benefits of voluntary harvest restraint and the importance of the management role hunters of New York play.  It’s a critical component to ensure we have healthy deer herds well into the future.”

Detailed technical reports on the analysis of alternatives and results of the hunter survey are both available on the DEC website, along with more succinct summaries of the work that was done.  DEC plans to hold public information meetings later this spring and summer to discuss these results and get hunter feedback on ways to encourage others to pass up shots at young, small-antlered bucks.

The meetings will also provide an opportunity for hunters and others to provide input on other aspects of DEC’s deer management plan, which will be updated in the coming year. The current (2012-2016) statewide deer plan is also available on the DEC website.

Goose Season Hunting Tips for New York’s Southern Tier

Due to expanding numbers of local goose populations in the South Area of New York State, there will continue to be a relatively new late Canada goose season, March 5 – 10, this year.

Hunters will be allowed to harvest five birds per person per day.  The South Area starts in Niagara County (at the Lake Ontario shoreline) and extends south in Western New York through Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties and further east along the Pennsylvania/New York border.  Check out the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) website at for the exact boundary location.

Scouting is Important

Scouting is typically 90 percent of whether or not you’ll be successful.  You’ll need to know what the birds are doing and where they’re going each day.  Remember, these birds were hunted earlier this year, especially if they are local birds, so they’ve been part of the action since last September.

Simplicity is the key.  A small number of quality-looking decoys may be a better situation than having an excessive number of imitation birds.  Good camouflage is a must, too.

Use Good Camo

By good camouflage, we mean a few different things.  One, you’ll need to match to the surroundings as best as you can.  If you’re using ground blinds, you’ll need to use whatever vegetation is available for that specific area.  If you have corn stalks in your lay-out blind or ground blind from last fall and there’s nothing like that around, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.  Don’t leave anything out around your blind that can give you away either. If there’s snow on the ground, you need to blend in as best you can.

One thing that may aid the cause is using helpful tools like Wing Wavers to help these birds focus on movement – and away from where you’re set up. By using Wing Wavers or something similar, the movement will help to attract geese near where you’re hiding out.  It will also draw their attention away from you and that’s a good thing.

Knowing where the birds are and where they want to be at different times of the day is the key to success for any waterfowl season.  Much will depend on the weather for that time of year and how much open water is available. We might spend one or two days scouting before I even hunt a day.  If the birds are on private land, be sure to get permission.

We play the wind and weather to our advantage.  You don’t have to be big on blinds, with some preferring to hunt the hedge rows – especially if there are deep ditches and good natural cover.  That’s all you need to be successful.

Snow Goose Season Also Open -BONUS

The bonus is that this is a time of year when snow goose season is also open.  We’ve hunted these same areas this time of year before and noticed a good number of geese around too.  This should be fun!

The wind is a key ingredient to success.  Birds will enter a field before landing by flying into the wind, so if you can position yourself for either pass-shooting or getting the birds to land in your decoys, it can be a rewarding hunt.  Try throwing out a dozen or so decoys and use them as a starting point for the birds.  Once the birds start landing in a field, they’ll start to pile in.  When that happens, we’ll usually get plenty of shooting.  Add, if it’s windy, the muffled sound will often go unnoticed to the birds milling around in the field adjacent to us.

When we hunt the water, we’ll be using floating goose decoys just like we would for duck hunting – leaving an opening for the birds to land in.  Later in the day is usually better for us, when birds are returning to the water after spending time in local fields feeding.  This year (2016), with the mild winter and not much ice cover, there should be plenty of water available for local bird populations.  With the mild weather, it could entice flight birds to start heading north early.  If that’s the case, we could see a mix of flight birds heading north into this South Area.

Time will tell.