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An online space for outdoorsmen from CNY and beyond. Tell us about the one you caught or the one that got away.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

DEC releases deer hunting stats for 2011

Last week the DEC released the Deer Report for the 2011 big game season. Statistics showed that a total of 228,359 deer harvested roughly matched the 230,100 taken in 2010. The total bucks killed (110,002) was slightly higher than the previous year’s total of 106,960.

For some of the local hunters who did not have a good season, or saw many less deer than in recent years and are raising their eyebrows, we just remind you that many a person has drowned in a stream that “averaged two feet deep.” And we will look at some of the local statistics as well as offer a few thoughts about them.

As usual, western New York and the Finger Lakes region lead the state in total deer harvest densities and total numbers. The “deer factories” of Yates, Wyoming, Genesee, Ontario and Livingston had high buck kills. Greater deer populations, easier access, and more hunters easily boosted all the totals from this area.

Overall the buck total from the northern zone (15,900) was about the same as the previous year but in the southern zone the total buck take (93,100) increased by about four percent. Obviously antlerless deer harvest is dependent on the number of deer management permits (DMPs) issued for each area. That number decreased by three percent in the southern zone. However, the success rate of antlerless deer harvest did decrease approximately two percent in 2011.

Overall the number of deer killed by muzzleloader was down more than 10 percent. Hunters killed 16,454 last year compared to 18,387 the year before or the five year average of 17,590. Bowhunters harvested 36,393 deer compared to 34,530 in 2011 or the five year average of 32,391.

A quick comparison of some popular areas, both northern and southern zone, around central New York shows slight fluctuation. Remember that you can access information, including the number from each township, on the DEC web site

Oneida County, which includes both northern and southern zone, had a harvest of 2,400 bucks and 4,436 total deer in 2011 compared to the previous year of 2,372 bucks and 4,445 total. Madison County had kills of 2,263 bucks and 4,951 deer last year and 2,274 bucks and 4,685 total deer in 2010. Onondaga County showed a buck harvest of 2,316 and 5,168 last year and 2,337 bucks and 5,734 in 2010.

North of Oneida Lake, Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 6K saw its numbers remain steady with 2,453 bucks compared to 2,462 the previous year. WMU 7M which includes much of Madison County to the south took 4,227 bucks last year, which was down slightly from the 4,485 in 2010. WMU 7J saw a big increase in buck harvest last year of 3,059, up from the 2,394 in 2010. WMU 6S had a slight decrease to 1,857 bucks from the 1,971 the previous year.

How do we reconcile these numbers with the legitimate complaints of many hunters who saw a lot less deer in many areas? First we must keep in mind that some areas like Verona still have not recovered from the herd slaughter of a few years ago following the CWD scare. Secondly, we should remember that deer, like money, are not evenly divided. We tend to hunt areas we are familiar with or have good access to. And in those areas there may well be reduced numbers of deer.

Last year was very difficult because the warm weather meant that deer were moving even less than normal during daylight hours. This discouraged many hunters and they stayed home to plant tulip bulbs instead of going deer hunting (talk about misplaced priorities!).

Fewer hunters afield also contributed to less deer being moved about and seen by other hunters.

However, the serious deer hunters adapted their tactics, hunted new areas, or were simply persistent in spending many hours afield at dawn and dusk. A higher percentage of them were rewarded with a deer, compared to much lower percentage of the casual deer hunters. Remember that only about one in twelve hunters gets a buck anyway.

None of this takes away the disappointment of those of us who were not successful or did not have as much action as usual. But the good news is that somewhere out there are still a lot of deer. We may have to change areas and tactics next year. Remember that deer season is only seven months away!

BOOK REVIEW: “Backcountry Bucks” by Todd Mead. With the release of the DEC Deer Report and harvest numbers, people are turning thoughts to deer hunting again. And at this time of “mud season” when many people are passing time reading, what better book to read than Todd Mead’s latest book.

Many people met Todd at the CNY Sportsmans Show in Oneida in February. His easy, unassuming style is carried over into his writing. He narrates stories of his family and friends hunting backcountry bucks in the Adirondacks with detail to the weather, the surroundings and all the things that contribute to hunting experience. The reader, especially those who have hunted in the backcountry or the Adirondacks, can relate to this and will practically feel the mist, hear the deer in the frozen leaves or shiver at the rain down the back of the neck.

Todd shares the stories of the successes and failures as well. At the end of each chapter he offers his thoughts on what he learned and hopefully you can learn from these encounters and adventures. Throughout it all, he stresses the experience and the respect for the deer. All hunters can relate to these, even if they don’t hunt the remote Adirondacks or regularly bag big bucks.

If your favorite bookstore does not have a copy, you can obtain one through Todd’s web site

It belongs on your bookshelf.

STEELHEAD: With the pleasant warm weather recently and absence of snowpack the streams, particularly the tributaries of Lake Ontario are heating up. At mid-week I was talking to my friend Jay Peck, a guide on the Salmon River as well as western NY streams. Jay said that warm weather, combined with no snow cover to melt and cool streams, would likely heat up the steelhead waters very rapidly.

This should create more action since the fish are more aggressive in warmer water and will quickly bring on the spawning action. Based on patterns in other years, Jay predicted that steelhead fishing will be finished about two weeks earlier than usual this year. For information on guided steelhead trips, call 585-233-0436. You will also be able to see an article on steelhead fishing and water temperatures on Writers Corner at

YOUTH TURKEY HUNT: The Oneida County Federation of Sportsmens Clubs and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) are teaming up during Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend April 21–22 to give youngsters who do not have a family member or adult mentor to hunt with an opportunity to hunt with an ECO.

On April 14, the weekend prior to the Youth Hunt, the youth will have the opportunity to learn the basic of turkey hunting from expert mentors and practice their marksmanship under the supervision of certified instructors.

Youngsters age 12–13 must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or relative over 21. Those ages 14-15 must be accompanied by parent, guardian or adult over 21 with written permission from a parent.

During the special Youth Turkey Hunting Weekend, youngsters will be accompanied by an ECO and have a chance to take a turkey before the regular season opens May 1. For more information or applications for the program, contact Mr. Scott Faulkner, Youth Turkey Hunt, 3729 Wells Gifford Road, Vernon Center, NY 13477 or call 829-3588.

NY BOWHUNTERS BANQUET: New York Bowhunters, Inc. will hold their annual banquet March 31 at the Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for NYB, Inc. and also serves a major collector of boxes to forward to our troops in Afghanistan. For information or reservations call 585-494-2478.


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