The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation took a little more time than usual to release the harvest statistics from the 2012 deer season. But, they’re out there now along with the bear harvest numbers released in March.
Both sets of data come with some very informative reports and I encourage you to visit DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov for a solid look at them.
For now, here’s a glance.
New York deer hunters harvested approximately 242,957 whitetails last season, up 6 percent from the 2011 harvest of 228,359.
In the northern zone, 30,843 deer were taken with 19,437 of them being bucks. Both numbers are greater than the 2011 harvest that totaled 26,814 total with 15,899 bucks. The regular season accounted for 14,793 total deer with archers taking 2,033 and muzzleloading hunters taking 8,190.
More than 5,800 were taken in areas where antlerless deer (DMP) and deer management assistance (DMAP, nuisance) permits are issued.
Down in the southern tier, there were 209,459 total deer taken with 98,571 being bucks. More than 97,000 southern zone deer were tagged with antlerless deer or deer management assistance permits; 70,845 whitetails were taken during the regular season.
While these numbers are up from 2011, the archery take of 33,171 and the muzzleloading take of 7,914 were both slightly lower than the previous year.
Statewide, crossbow hunters took 438 deer compared to 491 in 2011 and the first ever youth deer hunt accounted for 1,411 deer.
Locally, Clinton County hunters took 844 whitetails, including 587 bucks. The most productive town in the county was Clinton with 118 deer including 86 bucks. The Essex County harvest totaled 1,467 (1,061 bucks) with Keene leading the harvest with 166 deer, including 115 bucks. Other nearby county harvests include: Franklin, 1,634/1,108; Hamilton, 1,022/867; and Warren, 831/642.
The statewide harvest of 1,337 black bears ranks third overall, lagging only behind the 2003 harvest of 1,864 and that of 2009 when 1,409 bears were taken.
The harvest for 2012 was slightly above 2011, which was 1,258. After a dismal 2011 harvest of only 275 black bears, things got back to normal in the Adirondack range where 606 bears were taken. That’s slightly above the five-year average of 547 and the historical average of 515.
As is usually the case, most of the Adirondack harvest took place during the early bear season where 386 bears were taken; 132 were harvested during the regular big-game season in the northern zone.
Among the Adirondack harvest, Essex and St. Lawrence counties led the way with 73 bears each; 38 bears were taken in Hamilton County, 35 in Franklin and 62 bears in Warren County. Clinton County bear hunters harvested 54 black bears with the Town of Black Brook leading the way with 10. In Essex County, the most productive town was Lewis with 12 black bears.
Last year was an interesting one for bears with sightings of many young bears during the late summer and early fall. Food sources were scarce and DEC even indicates on their website that this draws bears toward human food sources (crops, garbage, bird feeders) and also makes them vulnerable to hunters early on.
Scarce food sources also force bears into early hibernation, making them less available to late season hunters. Many hunters are concerned that the lack of food did not provide enough fat reserves for hibernating bears to survive a long winter.
Back in 2010, we wrote about an Adirondack black bear study being conducted by then SUNY College of Environmental Forestry’s (ESF) Courtney LaMere that focused on the correlation between black bear reproduction and food availability.
The results of that study are discussed in a fine article written by LaMere in the April issue of The Conservationist magazine. In the article she concludes a correlation between beech nut abundance and reproduction; a finding that is hoped to be used to predict future human-bear conflicts.
And, looking to the future with the passage of the state budget, DEC’s and the Conservation Fund Advisory Board’s license fee package will become a reality in 2014. One big change is trapping licenses will remain their own entity at a fee of $20. With approximately 10,000 trappers in New York, that will put roughly $200,000 in the Conservation Fund. The archery and muzzleloading stamps have also both been adjusted to be $15 each.
To summarize the package, the most notable changes besides lower fees, especially for non-residents, is that fishing licenses will be valid one year from date of purchase and the license year will move from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 to Sept. 1 through Aug. 31.
It will be interesting to see how this affects future early season hunts for deer and bear.
Dan Ladd is the author of “Deer Hunting in the Adirondacks,” outdoors editor for the Glens Falls Chronicle, columnist for Outdoors Magazine and contributor to New York Outdoor News. Contact him at www.adkhunter.com.