Recently, a number of people have been asking me what’s going to happen during this fall’s deer season with the three-point antler restriction. There have been rumors that the entire Southern Tier will have those restrictions this year.
Well, that’s why they’re called rumors. In other words, that’s not true.
But let’s look at the pilot program that led to this decision.
In 2005, the DEC launched the Pilot AR (Antler Restriction) Program in two deer management units in the southern Catskill region. Many hunters were opposed to this program, just as they were when Pennsylvania instituted a similar program statewide. But two years into the restrictions, the Pennsylvania hunters were ecstatic. Everyone was seeing bucks with larger racks. Deer hunters were seeing and harvesting more big bucks than they had ever dreamed.
By 2006, New York state increased the area with antler restrictions to two more management units, and last year it included 11 units encompassing the entire Catskill region.
For those unfamiliar with this program, any buck harvested in the designated area has to have at least three antler points on one side over one inch long. This program allows yearling deer (1 1/2-year-old bucks) to grow, which, in time, will increase the number of mature bucks in any given area.
In 2011, the DEC concluded that the program substantially reduced the proportion of yearling deer harvested. This was obvious and at the end of two years, there was an increase in the number of 2 1/2-year-old bucks that were harvested. In three years, the number of mature bucks harvested equaled the total number of bucks taken before the program was implemented.
In surveying hunters, the DEC concluded that local hunters were very satisfied with the results of the AR program, but hunters from out of the area were generally dissatisfied. But in the last few years, it seems as if everyone has seen the positive results of the program.