Mild winters and a lack of natural food last fall contributed to a big spike in the success deer hunters had in New York last season.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced this week that the statewide whitetail take surged 12 percent last year, included in that increase a 5.2 percent rise in bucks killed. (The antlerless deer take rose 19 percent.)
The state data, though, seemed to show that hunters in our region had a tougher time finding bucks than in other parts of the state.
The DEC's estimated deer take included 114,402 antlerless deer and 113,385 antlered bucks. Most believed that the take would increase, as the deer herd was healthy with a recent lack of winter mortality, and the poor mast crop caused whitetails to have to be more active to find food.
Statewide, this represents a 20-percent increase in antlerless harvest and a five-percent increase in buck harvest from the last season. The increase in antlerless harvest comes on the heels of a lower-than-desired antlerless harvest in 2017 and will help limit growth in areas with an overpopulation. Regionally, hunters took 28,642 deer in the Northern Zone and 199,145 deer in the Southern Zone. With nearly 60 percent of the adult buck harvest 2.5 years or older, hunters took an estimated 66,697 older bucks, setting another record in the percentage and total number of older bucks in the harvest.
The DEC's website has a detailed breakdown of where, when and how deer were taken last fall around the state, which can be found online here.
Among the local data were charts that showed the buck take was up a minimum of 10 percent in much of the Adirondacks, but areas of Region 5 in Saratoga County saw a decrease (one of only a few WMUs that saw a decrease in bucks harvested) while hunters in adjacent areas of Washington and Rensselaer counties saw a "stable" take with no notable increase or decrease.
Locally, hunters took the most deer in Salem, Easton, Greenwich and Granville, with more than 330 taken in each town. In Warren County, where the take was less than a third of that in Washington County, Johnsburg (124) and Chester (122) saw the most success.
-- Don Lehman