New York's 2008 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Where To Find Our Biggest Bucks

New York remains one of the best places in the Northeast to find trophy-class whitetails. Here's where to start looking for your personal best buck in 2008. (November 2008)

Among the 100,000-plus bucks that Empire State hunters bagged last fall were some truly impressive trophies.

According to the Northeast Big Buck Club (which includes New York, Pennsylvania and all of New England), New York hunters registered several bucks gross-scoring at least 200 Boone and Crockett points.

And dozens scoring over 150 inches came from all over the state.

Archers, muzzleloaders and gun hunters took good bucks in various parts of this large and diverse state, from September all the way through January.

According to Pete Grannis, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner, the take for 2007 included 104,451 bucks and 114,690 antlerless deer.

The buck kill grew by 8 percent over 2006 (96,569) and 17 percent over 2005 (89,015), suggesting that deer populations in many portions of the state are continuing to grow.

The perennial leader in buck take -- Steuben County -- surprisingly fell to third place in 2006, but regained its top position in 2007 with a buck kill of 5,657.

Allegany County was next with 4,660 bucks, followed by Cattaraugus County with 4,470 bucks.

Erie and Chautauqua rounded out the top five.

A more accurate picture may be revealed by harvest density. By this calculation, the top counties for buck harvests were Allegany County (4.5 bucks per square mile), Yates (4.3), Wyoming (4.0), Steuben (4.0) and Tompkins (3.8).

These counties produced the most deer, the most bucks and in some cases, the biggest bucks.

But huge bucks came from every corner of the state.

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

Also in 2007, Keith LeVick killed the largest buck of the year -- and a new muzzleloader state record -- in Niagara County. That 22-point non-typical scored an amazing 231 2/8 gross and 221 0/8 net B&C points.

There was also a 200-class archery buck taken in Sullivan County, but that one is still pending official scoring by the NBBC.

Not every buck gets this big, of course.

In the Adirondacks, trophy bucks reach maturity by simply avoiding hunters. In western New York, where deer populations are high, hunting pressure is offset by good genetics and nutrition. In the Southern Zone, fewer bucks avoid shotgun hunters long enough to see their second year, so while many bucks are taken, most of them have mediocre racks.

Though any part of the state can produce trophy bucks, habitat and hunting conditions impact your probability of harvesting a trophy buck.

New York's whitetail herd is currently estimated at over 1 million deer, and local experts are encouraged about this fall's buck-hunting prospects. Here's what hunters can expect for the upcoming season:

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

In 2007, hunters in western New York took 57,140 bucks, compared to 51,336 bucks in 2006.

Steuben County was the harvest leader in both the region and the state with 5,657, or four bucks per square mile.

Hunters traditionally do well in Allegheny, Cattaraugus, Chenango, Erie and Chautauqua counties, which are typically among the regions' leaders, year after year.

Region 9
In 2006, Region 9 (Cattaraugus, Allegany, Chautauqua and Erie counties) produced four of the top 10 buck harvests in the state. Allegany County produced 4.5 bucks per square mile, the most in this region.

Niagara County produced the state's new record muzzleloader buck, while during the firearms season, Chautauqua County produced a 192 6/8 gross B&C non-typical 16-pointer for Ron Madison. These are two of the season's best deer.

Buck hunters should have no problems getting access to potential hotspots. Counties along the Pennsylvania border boast more than 160,000 acres of public hunting grounds among them.

In addition to the 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 that shows all of these parcels is available by calling (716) 372-0645.

Region 8
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, it was No. 1 again last year in terms of overall harvest. In 2007, a 178 6/8 non-typical 14-pointer was taken during the firearms season by Jamie Wolcott.

For public land action, try the 2,500-acre Erwin Wildlife Management Area, west of Painted Post off Beartown Road.

In Region 8, Livingston County came in second for total bucks (2,207) in 2006 and third in 2007 with 2,246 bucks, or 3.5 bucks per square mile.

Other Region 8 standouts include Ontario County (2,257 bucks in 2007) and Monroe County (1,803).

For four of the last six years, Yates County has led the state in bucks killed per square mile, coming in at 4.3 during the 2007 season.

A good bet in Region 8 is northern Livingston and southern Monroe counties, where great little pockets of cover create opportunities for mature farmland and suburban bucks.

Excellent hunting on state land is available in places like Letchworth State Park along the Genesee River in Livingston County. In fact, one of the state's largest archery bucks of 2007 came from Livingston County -- a 183 gross B&C 22-pointer taken by Marvin Yamonaco.

This county also produced 2006's best muzzleloader buck: a B&C caliber 10-point typical.

Region 7
Chenango County is your best bet for bucks in DEC Region 7. For the last two years, this county has had the highest buck kill in the region, with 2,769 in 2006 and 2,815 in 2007.

In recent seasons, Tioga had been No. 1, but finished third in 2007 at 1,951 bucks, behind Cayuga County at 2,075. Tioga and Tompkins counties are outstanding in terms of buck density, with 3.7 and 3.8 bucks killed per square mile in 2007, respectively.

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.

For hunters who like to follow a track for miles through fresh snow, northern New York is the perfect place. This area includes the vast and remote areas of regions 6 and 5, where deer densities and overall harvests tend to be a bit lower.

Across most of the Northern Zone, hunters kill fewer than two bucks per square mile in a majority of management units. Exceptions are Region 6's Washington County (2.3) and Region 5's Jefferson County (2.5).

In 2007, these two regions together produced 22,709 bucks (up from 20,680 in 2006 and 18,468 bucks in 2005) -- or typically, about 20 percent of the statewide harvest.

Good trophy areas include St. Lawrence County, which in 2007 produced the region's most bucks by far (4,193). But this figure is deceiving, in that the bucks-per-square-mile ratio was a woeful 1.5.

Regions 5 and 6
According to DEC biologists, these regions typically produce 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. The character of the terrain, with large forested tracts and few roads, means that bucks can escape hunters more easily than in most other parts of the state and therefore, live longer.

Hunters willing to walk or ride horses into remote areas in the Adirondacks can find deer herds with balanced sex and age ratios and hence, more mature bucks.

Hunters in these areas don't see large numbers of deer, but are able to hunt without much competition and match their skills against whitetail bucks in a wilderness setting.

Good hunting is typically found in the Lake Champlain Valley in Clinton and Essex counties (WMU 5G), where the deer herd is growing, but has not yet reached the habitat's carrying capacity.

Another area to pay attention to, where the deer population is also growing, is WMU 5J, the southern Adirondack foothills in Saratoga and Fulton counties.

As mentioned earlier, Jefferson and Washington counties offer better success percentages, with buck kills of more than two per square mile, compared to fewer than one buck per square mile in many other counties in this region.

Biologists point to Essex County as having good trophy-hunting prospects. The county's hundreds of thousands of forest-preserve acres are open to hunting, and much of that land is accessible via trailheads that begin at the edge of major highways.

Over the last two years, some of the better bucks taken in the area include James C. Doyle's 17-pointer (scoring 181 6/8 gross and 176 7/8 net) from Oneida County, and Charles Farney's 10-point typical from Jefferson County, which scored 174 7/8 gross and 162 0/8 net points.

This area includes counties in regions 1, 3 and 4. These areas -- the Catskills, Hudson Valley and Long Island -- typically combine for about 25 percent of the statewide buck kill.

In 2007, this region's 17 counties produced a total of 24,602 bucks. Delaware, Orange and Otsego counties ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the regional buck kill standings for the 2007 season, and stood in the top three in 2005 and 2006 as well.

Delaware County's final count of 3,399 bucks was the state's overall sixth-best. Statewide, Orange County ranked ninth (with 2,928 bucks) and Otsego ranked eleventh (with 2,603).

Each year, Sullivan and Dutchess are typically in the top 20 counties statewide for total buck harvest.

In the region, Columbia and Orange counties had the best bucks-per-square-mile ratios -- at 2.8 and 3.5, respectively.

Delaware County produced a relatively large number of bucks, but produced only 2.3 bucks per square mile in 2007.

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

In southern New York, Westchester County remains a great option for bowhunters, who took 654 bucks there last year.

The county has no public hunting land, however, so archers must seek permission from landowners.

Long Island's Suffolk County produced a whopping 850 bucks in 2006, down slightly to 781 bucks in 2007.

In Suffolk County, Richard Gates killed 2006's best archery buck -- a 208 5/8-inch gross and 196 2/8 net B&C 22-point non-typical.

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

To hunt the island, write to the DEC's Region 1 office, Room 226, SUNY Building 40, Stony Brook, NY 11790-2356.

For more about trophy hunting in New York, contact the Northeast Big Buck Club, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612. Or you can visit

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