I started asking around about the new antlerless-only rules installed for this 2015-2016 NY deer season in select WMUs. Many hunters don't agree with these rules, while some are just confused after seeing the new DEC map.

I was told that only "trophy hunters" would be upset over this change, so call me a "trophy hunter", despite the fact that I have personally harvested 5 does for every 1 buck over my lifetime so far.

Labels aside, I do not agree with the new antlerless-only rules at all. I do, however, agree with need and the reasoning behind the rules, but not the chosen solution!

In this post, I want to explain the changes and the reasoning behind them in plain English, rather than a map which six people can interpret six different ways. I'll conclude with a couple thoughts of my own, including a better solution that could've been deployed.

RECAP: The DEC's Solution
First, to be clear, the DEC did not shorten southern zone deer season. It just restricted some units from harvesting bucks during certain periods. The WMUs which have the new antlerless-only dates are 1C, 3M, 3S, 4J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 8H, 8N, 9A, and 9F. The restrictions span from October 1 through October 15 in the southern zone bow season. This is not all that drastic. Remember, just a handful of years ago we couldn't even begin hunting deer until approximately October 15 in the Southern Zone.

In addition, the late primitive season in these zones has been changed to antlerless-only as well. The regular firearms season, beginning the third Saturday in November like always, has not been modified.

So, no bucks can be harvested in the designated WMUs from October 1 through October 15 and December 14 through December 22. The DEC has stated that more DMPs will be issued in these zones to allow hunters to harvest more antlerless deer.

The reasoning behind these changes is the harvest ratios are unbalanced and harvest quotas have not been achieved. The populations are too high and buck to doe ratios are out of balance. The DEC believes that by limiting the days you can shoot a buck means hunters will harvest more does, solving both problems at once.  

Flawed Plan
However, limiting the number of buck harvest days to bring up doe numbers, doesn't add up to a sound policy to me. More hunter hours mean more harvests, plain and simple.

I've spoken to numerous hunters who won't even be hunting those antlerless-only dates. Those same hunters stated that they won't be buying their late season muzzleloader stamp either just to harvest does and not have the opportunity to harvest a buck.

Unbalanced Sex Ratios
The zones selected for an increased antlerless harvest have unbalanced sex ratios. These unbalanced sex ratios can result in does not breeding in their first estrus cycle. This results in does breeding in their second or third estrus cycle, or not at all. This has significant consequences.

A doe's body cycles approximately every 28 days. Each time, she will be receptive for breeding for 24 to 48 hours. Therefore, if she conceives during her second estrus cycle, that fawn will be born approximately 28 days later then a fawn that was conceived during the first estrus cycle. That fawn has 28 fewer days to grow and develop after birth before it has to survive its first winter.
Likewise, fawns conceived during the third estrus cycle are 56 days behind. Instead of having 6-7 months to grow before winter, a third-cycle fawn can have as little as 4-5 months! These younger fawns are the first to starve, die of disease, or freeze to death in the winter months because they didn't have a chance to put away enough fat reserves to survive.

My Solution: Give, Don't Take
Like I mentioned earlier, I don't agree with the changes to address the management challenges in these WMUs. First, I see the rules as unfair to the food hunter. Second, the true "trophy hunters" may sit on the sidelines for two weeks, reducing hunter hours and overall harvest numbers.

Instead, I'd add an additional antlerless-only week to the southern zone's bow season in the WMUs that have been selected for the antlerless-only periods. I'd insert this week into late September and or as an additional antlerless-only week at the end of December following the primitive season. This wouldn't take anything away, but give more hours and days to the zones that need to increase harvest numbers.

Your Part Of The Solution
As hunters, we collectively own a part of this problem.

The correct balance will optimize herd and habitat health so that this resource will be here for more generations to enjoy. Without sound management, I believe this valuable resource could very well disappear. And sound management cannot be accomplished without educated hunters. 

I recommend visiting the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) website, where you'll find a tremendous amount of resources for members and non-members alike. It's an affordable way for individual hunters to get educated in deer and deer habitat. Then get involved in QDMA, the National Deer Alliance, and other organizations that seek to save the hunt and save the habitat.

If you're not doing your part, complaining when things begin to change will ring hollow. Educate yourself, step up, make a difference, and make your voice heard as a knowledgeable steward of the land.

Benjamin Williams
Ol' Tin Cup Habitat Restoration and Enhancement
Phone: (315) 879-7802


Be the first to comment

Users who are logged in may post comments.