DEC: More than 16K deer harvested in tri-county area in 2023

May 7—WATERTOWN — Hunters harvested more than 16,000 deer across the tri-county area in 2023, according to data released this week by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Jefferson County saw the fifth most number of deer harvested among the state's 62 counties at 6,673, while St. Lawrence County realized the seventh highest total with 6,113. Steuben County in the state's southern tier led all counties with 14,295.

Hunters in the tri-county area harvested a total of 10,547 bucks, with St. Lawrence County accounting for 4,261 adult males, Jefferson County realizing 3,893 and Lewis County taking in 2,393. Jefferson County hunters took 2,340 female adults, while hunters in St. Lawrence County took 1,459 does and hunters in Lewis County accounted for 843 does.

Hunters in Jefferson County also took 212 male fawns and 228 female fawns, while in St. Lawrence County there were 198 male and 195 female fawns harvested and in Lewis County there were 154 male fawns taken and 151 females.

In Franklin County, there were 2,296 total deer harvested, consisting of 1,660 adult males, 455 adult females, 94 male fawns and 87 female fawns.

Overall, hunters harvested an estimated nearly 210,000 deer statewide, which according to a statement from DEC included more than twice as many older bucks, or bucks two-and-a-half years old or older, than were harvested in the early 1990s and nearly five times as many than were harvested in 1969 when DEC first began monitoring the age structure of New York's deer herd.

"Nearly 70 percent of the bucks harvested by hunters during the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons were two years or older," Interim DEC Commissioner Sean Mahar said. "This demonstrates the continued effectiveness of DEC's Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow campaign, and the willingness of hunters to voluntarily pass up opportunities at young bucks to improve their future opportunities to harvest older bucks."

The 2023-24 estimated deer harvest included an estimated 112,224 antlered bucks, or adult males, and an estimated 97,557 antlerless deer, or adult females and fawns of either sex. Statewide, this represents a 3.6% decrease in antlered buck harvest and a 15.6% decrease in antlerless deer harvest from last season, according to DEC.

DEC said in its statement that the decrease in antlerless deer harvest, which is about 15% lower than the five-year average, is concerning because DEC manages deer populations through actions that encourage harvest of antlerless deer.

Harvesting antlerless deer helps ensure deer populations remain in balance with available habitat and do not exceed levels of public acceptance that can lead to increased crop damage, deer-vehicle collisions and other potentially negative deer-related impacts, DEC said. Harvesting antlerless deer also helps ensure deer are able meet their nutritional demands for antler development, fawn recruitment, and body growth.

DEC said it is evaluating various regulatory and non-regulatory alternatives to increase harvest of antlerless deer during future hunting seasons and encourages all deer hunters in it Wildlife Management Units to harvest at least one antlerless deer during the upcoming 2024-25 deer hunting season.