The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Bureau of Wildlife recently announced a proposal that, if adopted, would allow counties to opt out of the recently established end-of-year deer hunt, slated to occur annually between December 26 and January 1. The ‘holiday hunt’ is an extension of the late bow and muzzleloader deer season in New York’s Southern Zone. DEC adopted the holiday deer hunt earlier this year to provide hunters with new opportunities to venture afield when families and friends are gathered for the holidays and students are home on school break. The new regulatory proposal is designed to address concerns raised by some communities and stakeholders that landowners might prevent snowmobile access to trail networks that cross private land during the holiday deer hunt, limiting opportunities for snowmobilers during the last week of December.
The National Deer Association (NDA) has been engaged on this topic for over a year. Last September, we sent a letter to DEC noting that the NDA fully supports the addition of new hunting opportunities that effectively maintain or aid in the management of a healthy and balanced wild deer herd. However, the NDA and our members did have some reservations on the realized increase in hunter opportunity presented by the proposed season, as well as other biological and sociological harvest-related issues. DEC received over 3,000 comments on the proposed ‘holiday hunt’, and the Department’s assessment of those comments can be seen here. Ultimately, DEC proposed and passed the ‘holiday hunt’, but has now introduced the recent rulemaking to potentially allow counties to opt out of the late December season.
While the NDA expressed some reservations about the proposal and ultimate implementation of the ‘holiday hunt’, the NDA has always believed that deer management decisions directly impacting season structure, and thus harvest intensity, should be left to the agencies responsible for managing the resource. DEC is accepting public comment on their proposal, and the NDA strongly encourages our members and supporters to share their thoughts with the Department. Comments will be accepted through November 14 and may be submitted by email at WildlifeRegs@dec.ny.gov or in writing to: Wildlife Regulations, NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, 5th Floor, Albany, NY 12233-4754.