New York's 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Where To Find Our Biggest Bucks

New York's 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Where To Find Our Biggest Bucks

New York hunters continue to take trophy-class bucks from every corner of the Empire State. Here's where to focus your efforts this season, based on long-term trends. (November 2007)

Photo by Ralph Hensley.

Any deer hunter knows that the best way to encounter trophy bucks consistently is to find those places where deer have the necessary combination of time, nutrition and genetics to grow to record size.


Last fall, Empire State hunters bagged some impressive trophies. According to the seven-state Northeast Big Buck Club (covering New York and all of New England), two bucks scoring at least 200 gross Boone and Crockett points were recorded. And dozens of bucks over 150 came from many different counties during all seasons.

According to Carl Johnson, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) acting executive deputy commissioner, the 2006 harvest of almost 96,600 bucks was an encouraging increase of 8 percent over the 89,200 bucks taken in 2005. That suggests that deer populations in many portions of the state are growing and recent management actions are working.


Surprisingly, the perennial leader in buck harvests -- Steuben County -- posted only the third-highest buck harvest in 2006, with 3,763. Allegany County was tops with 4,368 bucks, followed by Cattaraugus County with 4,320. St. Lawrence County tied Steuben for third place, with Chautauqua County rounding out the top five.


These counties produced the most deer and the most bucks and, in some cases, the biggest bucks. But huge bucks came from just about every corner of the state.

The largest buck of the 2006 season was a great non-typical taken by Bob Cuozzo in Chemung County. Taken during the firearms season, this huge 19-point non-typical had a gross B&C score of 215 3/8 and a net score of 209 6/8.

The year's second-best buck was taken in Suffolk County by Richard Gates. Taken with a bow, it scored an impressive 208 5/8 gross and 196 2/8 net B&C.

The best muzzleloader buck of the season was taken by Frank Waltman in Livingston County. A massive 10-pointer, it scored 167 3/8 gross and 160 7/8 net B&C.

Not all bucks can get this big, however. In the Adirondacks -- where there is an average of only one buck taken per square mile -- trophy bucks reach maturity simply by avoiding hunters.

In western New York, deer populations are high, and hunting pressure is offset by good genetics and nutrition. However, in the Southern Zone, fewer bucks avoid shotgun hunters long enough to see their second year. So while many bucks are taken, most have small racks.

New York's whitetail herd, currently estimated at over 1 million animals, is distributed throughout varied habitat. And given the reduced harvests in the past few seasons, local experts are encouraged about this fall's buck-hunting prospects.

Here's a look at what hunters can expect as we enter the 2007 season:

WESTERN NEW YORK

Western New York includes regions 7, 8 and 9 (and their corresponding WMUs), which stretch from the Interstate Route 81 corridor west to the shores of Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

This is a great place to get your buck. In 2006, hunters downed 51,336 bucks in all, or 53 percent of the statewide total (about the same percentage as the previous two years).

That broke down as follows: 17,577 bucks in DEC Region 9's six counties; 18,057 more in the 11 counties of Region 8; and an additional 15,702 in nine-county Region 7.

In terms of trophy bucks taken by county, last season this section of New York produced eight of the ten best according to the Northeast Big Buck Club records for the state.

Allegany County led the harvest in both the region and in the state at 4,438 or 4.2 bucks per square mile. Hunters traditionally do well in Steuben, Cattaraugus, Chenango, Erie or Chautauqua counties, which typically are among the regions' leaders year after year.

Region 9 (Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany counties) produced three of the top ten buck harvests in the state in 2006. In this region, Allegany produced the most bucks (4.2) per square mile.

Wyoming County produced one of the state's top archery bucks of 2006, a 10-pointer for Daniel Nugent that grossed 164 7/8 and netted 154 2/8 Pope and Young points.

Counties along the Pennsylvania border have more than 160,000 acres of public hunting grounds among them. In addition to 65,000-acre Allegany State Park, sportsmen have access to 17,200 acres of state forestlands in Chautauqua County, 33,600 acres in Cattaraugus County and 46,300 acres in Allegany County.

A map showing all of these parcels is available by calling (716) 372-0645.

Region 8 is defined by the perennial success of Steuben County, arguably the best trophy-hunting county in the state over the last 10 seasons. The state's largest non-typical archery buck of 2005 came from Steuben County -- a 203 7/8-inch gross B&C monster shot by Rex Taft.

Try the 2,500-acre Erwin Wildlife Management Area, west of Painted Post off Beartown Road.

In 2006, Livingston County finished second in Region 8 for total bucks (2,207). Other Region 8 standouts include Ontario County (2,169 bucks in 2006) and Monroe County (1,695 bucks). In four of the last five years, Yates County led the state in bucks killed per square mile, coming in at 3.9 during the 2006 season.

In Region 8, good bets are northern Livingston and southern Monroe counties. Excellent state-land hunting is available in places like Letchworth State Park along the Genesee River in Livingston County. But be sure to get your park stamp for your license before hunting those lands.

In fact, the state's largest archery typical in recent years came from Livingston County -- an amazing 10-point buck taken by Lance Wolfanger in 2004 that grossed 172 7/8.

Livingston County also produced 2006's best muzzleloader buck for Frank Waltman.

In Region 7, Chenango County is the best bet for bucks. This county had the highest buck kill in the region for the last two years, with 2,769 in 2006 and 2,365 in 2005.

Tioga had been No. 1 for the previous three seasons, but finished second in 2006 at 1,8

70 bucks, tied with Tompkins County.

Both counties are outstanding in terms of buck density, with 3.6 and 3.7 bucks killed per square mile respectively in 2006. Public hunting grounds in this region include the 1,118-acre Turkey Hill Reforestation Area in Tioga County, Michigan Hill State Forest, spanning 1,209 acres in Richford (also Tioga County), and the 11,000-acre Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area off Route 13 in the town of Newfield (in Tompkins County).

NORTHERN NEW YORK

Northern New York is the perfect place for trophy-buck hunters who aren't afraid to use a compass. It includes the vast -- and remote -- areas of regions 6 and 5.

According to Ed Reed, a DEC Region 5 biologist, this region typically produces a higher percentage of mature bucks (3.5 years and older) than any other region in the state, although the overall deer population is lower in this region.

Reed noted that the character of the terrain, with its large, forested tracts and few roads, lets bucks escape hunters and therefore live longer. Hunters who are willing to walk or take horses into remote areas in the Adirondacks are able to find more mature bucks.

Typically, good hunting may be found in the Lake Champlain Valley in Clinton and Essex counties (WMU 5G). The deer herd there is growing, but has not reached the habitat's carrying capacity, so the deer are healthy and big.

Other areas for paying attention to include the southern Adirondack foothills in Saratoga and Fulton counties (WMU 5J), where the deer population is also growing and healthy.

Across most of the Northern Zone, deer densities are relatively low. Reported hunter kills are fewer than two bucks per mile in most management units, with the exception of Washington County (2.4) in Region 6 and Jefferson County (2.3) in Region 5.

This region produced 20,680 bucks in 2006 (versus 18,468 bucks in 2005), or 21 percent of the statewide harvest -- about the same percentage as in 2004 and 2005.

Good trophy areas include St. Lawrence County, which produced 3,763 bucks, the most in the region, in 2006. The bucks-per-square-mile ratio was only 1.3.

Jefferson and Washington counties offer better percentages of success. There, buck kills are over two per square mile, compared to fewer than one buck per square mile in many of this region's other counties.

Northern New York is the perfect place for trophy-buck hunters who aren't afraid to use a compass. It includes the vast -- and remote -- areas of regions 6 and 5.

Biologists point to Essex County as a place with good trophy-hunting prospects and lots of huntable land. The county has hundreds of thousands of forest-preserve acres open to hunting, and much of that land is accessible via trailheads that begin at the edge of major highways.

SOUTHEASTERN NEW YORK

This area includes regions 1, 3 and 4. The Catskills, Hudson Valley and Long Island typically produce about 25 percent of the statewide buck kill.

Orange, Delaware and Otsego counties ranked one, two, three in regional buck-kill standings for the 2006 season, and stood in the top three in 2005. Orange County's final count of 2,988 bucks was the state's seventh-best, while Delaware County ranked eighth (with 2,847 bucks). Otsego County was ranked tenth statewide, with 2,758 bucks.

Columbia and Orange Counties had the region's best bucks-per-square-mile ratio, at 2.6 and 3.2 respectively.

The trophy hunt at the 10,000-acre West Point Military Reservation in Orange County remains one of the most innovative in the state. To take advantage of West Point's thriving deer herd, hunters must possess a deer management permit for Wildlife Management Unit 3P. And the permit-holder must tag a doe before shooting a buck on the premises.

To learn more about the hunt, call Jim Beemer, the post's wildlife manager, at (845) 938-2857.

Delaware County produced a relatively large number of bucks, but only 1.9 bucks per square mile in 2006, well down from 3.1 of just a few years ago.

Prime public-hunting areas here include the 7,400-acre Bear Spring Mountain Wildlife Management Area north of Shinhopple via Trout Brook Road.

Dutchess County produced the state's best buck during the 2003 season: a 197 5/8-inch gross B&C 20-point non-typical for gun hunter Scott Soterion -- and in 2005, a great archery buck, scoring 162 7/8 gross B&C, for Peter Cilione.

In southern New York, Westchester County remains a great option for bowhunters, who took 596 bucks last year. That's up slightly from 2005, but down from 638 in 2004.

Open to archers only, the county has produced more archery trophies than any other in the state.

Long Island's Suffolk County has an archery-only hunt that runs usually from the beginning of November through Dec. 31, followed by a brief shotgun hunt in mid-January.

Suffolk County produced a whopping 850 bucks in 2006, up from 614 bucks in 2005. To hunt the island, write to the DEC's Region 1 office, SUNY Building 40, Room 226, Stony Brook, NY 11790-2356.

The best archery buck of the year 2006 fell in Suffolk County -- a 196 2/8 net B&C 22-point non-typical killed by Richard Gates.

For more information about trophy hunting in New York, readers may contact the Northeast Big Buck Club, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612. For more information, you can visit www.bigbuckclub.com.

Find more about New York fishing and hunting at: NewYorkGameandFish.com

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