Prospects are strong for Big Game season

By Brian Sweeney
The 2008 Big Game Hunting Season in the Southern Zone, which opens Saturday, Nov. 15, is shaping up to be another strong one, according to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Following several years of low harvests, the 2007 deer take numbers were up sharply across most of the state. DEC officials expect the higher deer take trend to continue this year, but at a slower growth rate.
The shift to a Saturday opening was instituted several years ago, a change from the traditional Monday opener. The Big Game Season concludes on Sunday, Dec. 7 in the Southern Zone.
DEC statistics indicate that deer survival was quite high throughout a generally mild winter. As a result, populations are expected to have increased slightly in most Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
Last year, hunters in New York State harvested approximately 220,000 deer, a 16 percent increase from the year before. Of that total, the number of bucks taken was 104,500. This represented an eight percent increase from 2006 (96,569 bucks) and 17 percent higher than 2005 (89,015 bucks).
Based on a projection of slow growth for the state’s deer population, the DEC is predicting a slight increase in deer takes for the 2008 season.

Delaware, Ulster figures
In Delaware County last season, hunters took 4,995 deer overall, including 3,399 bucks. These numbers were up from 3,323 deer and 2,847 bucks taken during the 2006 season.
The averages for Delaware County calculated by the DEC show that hunters there harvested 1.9 bucks per square mile in 2006 and that figure rose to 2.3 bucks per square mile last season.
In neighboring Ulster County, the overall deer take last season was 3,877, up from 3,188 in 2006. The buck take increased to 1,805 from 1,664 in 2006.
Most local hunting falls into Wildlife Management Units 4P, 4R and 3A. The DEC’s chart lists last year’s buck take in WMUs 4P and 3A as lower than the department’s buck take objective and the buck take in 4R as within 10 percent of the objective.
In an effort to achieve its deer harvest objectives in various WMUs, the DEC issues Deer Management Permits (DMPs), often called “doe tags.” Because deer populations in some units are above objective and increasing in many others, DEC will be increasing the number of DMPs available this fall by about 13 percent. The total target DMP allocation for 2008 is approximately 530,000.
The DEC’s forecast calls for a similar improvement in the bear take. Catskill Region hunters bagged 453 bears in 2007 compared to 365 the previous year.
The five-year average for the bear harvest (2002-2006) in the Catskill Region is 359. This compares to the Historic Average in the Catskill Region (1980-1990) of an average bear harvest of 70 bears.

Venison donation
DEC officials also remind hunters about its Venison Donation Program. This program allows hunters to help those less fortunate while also assisting with deer management in New York.
The Venison Donation Program is operated in conjunction with 120 venison processors in 50 counties. During 2007, more than 90,000 pounds of quality venison was donated to the program. Since the program was implemented seven years ago, hunters have donated enough money to supply more than two million meals.
Sportsmen are invited to donate a dollar or more anywhere licenses are sold by informing the clerk that they wish to support the Venison Donation Program. Brochures about the program are available at license outlets.