The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced proposed rulemaking to allow big game hunters to hunt during the entire daily period of ambient light, increase antlerless deer harvest in specific Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) where needed, and enhance hunter safety while big game hunting with a firearm.
Specifically, the proposed rulemaking establishes that:
- Daily hunting hours for deer or bear shall be from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset;
- Any person hunting deer or bear with a firearm or a person who is accompanying someone hunting deer or bear with a firearm shall display either 250 square inches of fluorescent orange or pink material worn above the waist and visible from all directions OR a hat or cap with no less than fifty percent of the exterior consisting of solid fluorescent orange or pink material and visible from all directions;
- WMUs 6A, 6F and 6J are open to either-sex harvest during the Northern Zone early muzzleloader season; and
- During the Early Antlerless season, antlerless deer may be taken with any legal implement in WMUs 3M, 3R, 8A, 8F, 8G, 8J, 8N, 9A, and 9F, and antlerless deer may be taken with longbows in WMUs 1C, 3S, 4J, and 8C.
The National Deer Association (NDA) supports all four of these proposals. First, the NDA fully supports the proposed rule that extends daily deer hunting hours to 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, consistent with most legal hunting hours around the country. In fact, the NDA and its members have been advocating for this change for nearly a year. As DEC notes in the NYSDEC Management Plan for White-Tailed Deer in New York State, 2021–2030 (Plan), New York is the only state that limits deer hunting to between sunrise and sunset. Further, there is no data supporting the notion that hunting during daylight prior to sunrise or after sunset results in any increased risk to safety. Rather, data we’ve monitored on hunting accident rates that show hunting during this time is safe and appropriate for all hunters, and New York currently allows it for other game species (turkey, waterfowl, etc.).
The NDA also supports the proposed rule that expands hunter orange or pink requirements to all gun hunters and not just youth, as currently required. “Hunter orange” is a term generally used for the blaze or fluorescent orange clothing (or an alternative, legal color, such as pink) hunters wear afield while hunting. Hunters who wear approved fluorescent clothing are seven times less likely to be shot accidentally by another hunter than those who do not. The NDA strongly recommends that all deer hunters wear blaze or fluorescent orange clothing (or an alternative, legal color) when afield during firearms season, regardless of wildlife agency requirements. We urge states and provinces that do not currently require it to change their regulations so that it’s mandated in the future.
Next, the NDA supports DEC’s proposal to open WMUs 6A, 6F and 6J to either-sex harvest during the Northern Zone early muzzleloader season. DEC reports that the population appears to be growing in these WMUs due to mild winters and low antlerless harvest and that these units should be opened back up to either sex harvest as they were previously. This rule will have little impact at a state or regional level, although local hunters may have strong feelings about the proposal. DEC manages deer in the rest of the state through either-sex tags, and adjusting regulations accordingly in these zones simplifies management and increases opportunities for hunters.
Finally, the NDA also supports the proposal to establish a firearms season for antlerless deer in mid-September in specific WMUs where existing harvests are inadequate to achieve population management objectives. As DEC notes in the Plan, deer populations are managed principally through manipulation of mortality rates of adult female deer. On the landscape scale, regulated hunting is the only viable tool available to accomplish this type of management. Through most of New York, DEC modifies the number of Deer Management Permits (i.e., antlerless deer tags) available to hunters and regulations for hunting seasons to manipulate harvest of adult female deer and affect population change consistent with recommendations to achieve local objectives. Here, DEC has already applied a sustained effort to increase the number of Deer Management Permits (DMPs) in the proposed WMUs, but availability (and efficacy) of these allocations has routinely outpaced demand. So, if more DMPs are not doing the job, the next step up would be to increase opportunity and/or allow the use of more effective hunting implements. In this case, DEC has opted to utilize both. The NDA supports this strategy to help bring deer populations more in line with local objectives.
Please consider joining the NDA in supporting these regulatory proposals in New York. These proposals will significantly increase hunter opportunity, aid the DEC in bringing population levels in line with local, regional and state objectives, and increase the safety of all those afield. CLICK HERE to quickly send a letter of support to DEC.