With deer hunting seasons that span four months, vastly different habitat types, and nearly 4 million acres of public land to be explored, New York State offers unique opportunities for hunters to pursue white-tailed deer.
2023-24 Deer Hunting Season
DEC biologists predict that the 2023-2024 hunting season will be another productive season for New York's deer hunters. Winter-related stress and mortality were minimal for deer during the winter of 2022-2023, which was the eighth mild winter in a row across the state. Although natural vegetation and crops got off to a slow start due to unusually dry conditions during the months of May and June, above average levels of precipitation and temperatures throughout the month of July have improved deer forage quality across most of the state. However, some areas of western New York and Long Island are still experiencing moderate drought conditions and a late frost in May along with localized outbreaks of spongy moth may affect the production of certain crops (ex. apples) and hard mast (ex. acorns) in some areas this fall. No outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which impacted deer populations on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley the past three years and areas surrounding eastern Lake Ontario in 2021, have been detected yet this summer. Increases in buck harvest, which DEC tracks as an index of deer population abundance, during the 2022-23 hunting seasons indicate that deer populations in affected areas are recovering.
In response to growing deer populations in many areas of the state DEC has increased the availability of deer management permits (DMPs) (i.e., antlerless deer tags) or maintained them at similar levels to last year for the 2023-2024 hunting season. DMPs are the primary tool used by DEC to manage deer populations and are available to hunters through an instant lottery process beginning August 1 and ending October 1. Hunters should consult DEC's table of DMP targets and chances of selection before purchasing their license. Use of DMPs by hunters helps ensure that deer populations do not exceed habitat carrying capacity or levels of social acceptability (ex. farmers experiencing crop damage), and limits the need for DEC to use other methods to reduce deer impacts. DMPs also provide additional opportunities for hunters to extend their time afield and fill their freezers with venison.
Statewide, DEC anticipates the total antlered buck harvest this fall will be similar to last year. However, the age distribution of bucks available to hunters continues to improve. Although a mandatory antler point restriction continues in a few WMUs, in the rest of the state where hunters can choose the buck they want to harvest, most are continuing to choose to harvest older bucks. Based on DEC's deer population monitoring, the buck harvest has shifted from more than 70% yearlings a couple decades ago to greater than 60% 2.5-year-old or older bucks in recent years. If you are interested in seeing more larger, older-aged bucks and experiencing greater buck activity during the breeding season, DEC recommends practicing and encouraging other hunters to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow. Harvesting antlerless deer instead of young bucks contributes more to deer management and can increase hunter satisfaction through increased viewing of and opportunities to harvest older-aged bucks.
Expanded Hunting Opportunities
Deer harvest data and feedback from hunters has continued to demonstrate the benefits of expanded hunting opportunities established in 2021, and deer hunters will continue to enjoy these opportunities during the 2023-24 seasons as well as new opportunities to use rifles to hunt big game in Onondaga County.
- Onondaga was added to the list of counties where rifles can be used to take big game during the regular season in 2023.
- 12- and 13-year old hunters may hunt deer with a firearm or crossbow in counties that passed a local law to participate in the opportunity. See Junior Big Game Hunting for a map of participating counties.
- Antlerless-only deer season in mid-September (9/9 - 9/17/2023) using firearms, crossbows, and vertical bows in WMUs 3M, 3R, 8A, 8F, 8G, 8J, 8N, 9A, and 9F, and using only vertical bows in WMUs 1C, 3S, 4J, and 8C. Only DMPs and DMAP tags may be used.
- Daily hunting hours for deer and bear extended to 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.
Holiday Deer Hunt remains an extension of the late bow and muzzleloader season from December 26 - January 1 in the Southern Zone. Hunters and other recreationists are encouraged to Share the Snow (PDF).