The 2020 estimated deer take included 137,557 antlerless deer and 116,433 antlered bucks. Statewide, this represents a 30-percent increase in antlerless harvest and a three-percent decrease in buck harvest from the last season. Across the board, whether with a bow, muzzleloader, or rifle, hunters targeted antlerless deer more in 2020 than 2019, supporting DEC’s management objectives to maintain stable deer populations in most of the State and to reduce deer abundance in a few areas. Hunters took 33,260 deer in the Northern Zone, a 10-percent increase from 2019, primarily due to increased antlerless harvest. Southern Zone hunters took 220,730 deer, a 14-percent increase from 2019, also because of increased antlerless harvest.
Increased antlerless harvests may have been due, at least in part, to additional hunters during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, the number of licensed big game hunters increased to just over 588,000, approximately seven percent more than 2019. The number of bowhunters increased 10 percent, reaching a new high of more than 251,000, and the number of muzzleloader hunters increased six percent to more than 253,600.
And after several years of declining participation, the number of youth deer hunters ages 14 to 15 increased by 23 percent. This year, new legislation allows 12- and 13-year-old tweens to hunt deer with adult supervision. With these additional hunters, DEC issued approximately six percent more Deer Management Permits (antlerless tags) than in 2019, and hunters were more successful filling DMPs at a greater rate than prior years, resulting in a 34-percent increase in DMP harvest.
Across the state, harvest of 2.5-year-old bucks exceeded that of yearling bucks for the second year in a row. In portions of southeastern New York without mandatory antler point restrictions, 70 percent of the bucks taken were 2.5 years or older. The goal of DEC’s Let Young Bucks Go and Watch Them Grow campaign is to preserve hunter freedom of choice while advancing the age structure of harvested bucks, predominantly into the 2.5-year-old age class. In 2020 two new records were set with the largest typical and non-typical archery bucks ever taken in New York, from Suffolk and Niagara counties respectively, according to the New York State Big Buck Club.
- 16.9 and 0.6 – number of deer taken per square mile in the units with the highest (WMU 8R) and lowest (WMU 5F) harvest density.
- 61.7 percent – portion of the adult buck harvest that was 2.5 years or older statewide, up from 45 percent a decade ago, and 30 percent in the 1990s.
- 45 percent – portion of successful deer hunters that reported their harvest as required by law. This is down from 52 percent in 2019.
- 14,825 – number of hunter-harvested deer checked by DEC staff in 2020 to determine hunter reporting rate and collect biological data (e.g., age, sex, antler data).
- 2,720 – deer tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in 2020-21; none tested positive. DEC has tested more than 56,000 deer for CWD since 2002.
Deer harvest data are gathered from two main sources: harvest reports required of all successful hunters; and DEC’s examination of more than 14,800 harvested deer at meat processors and check stations across the state. Harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources and calculating the total harvest from the reporting rate for each zone and tag type. DEC’s 2020 Deer Harvest Summary report provides tables, charts, and maps detailing the deer harvest around the state. Past harvest summaries are also available on DEC’s website.
Photo of whitetail deer by Dick Thomas.