Read the original article by Craig Robbins at post-journal.com here.
Hunters bought more than15.6 million hunting licenses in 2018, according to United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The F&WS collects this information annually from every state and U.S. territory.
Texas sold the most licenses, over 1 million; and Rhode Island sold the fewest, around 8,000. Those numbers represent individual hunters in each state, but many hunters buy licenses in several states. The numbers don’t include hunters who get free licenses, such as landowners, youth or seniors. License requirements vary. Some states require anglers or boat registrants to buy a hunting license as part of their purchase, so specifying the number of active hunters isn’t always possible.
Of the nation’s many hunters, 80 percent chase big game, according to the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation deer are the most popular game animal, according to the survey, which found that over 8.1 million people hunt deer annually. Wild turkeys were the next most popular game, with 2 million hunters; followed by elk and bear.
Harvest reports and license sales provide each state’s data. This information helps wildlife agencies track trends and set management policies. States often collect the data differently, but it’s done most commonly with surveys, check stations, and voluntary or mandatory reporting. Even states with mandatory reporting use scientific estimates to determine or double-check harvest data.
Harvest rates can also help customers plan their hunts. Publicly accessible data varies by state, but provides insight into hunting areas, success rates, animal maturity, hunting pressure and tag-draw odds. Some states also compile archery-specific information.
Hunters bought 579,000 licenses in 2018, according to the F&WS in New York State. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation reports hunters harvested 203,000 whitetails in 2017, including 44,000 with a bow. Hunters also killed 1,300 black bears, including 350 with a bow, according to the 2018 Black Bear Harvest Summary. Hunters killed 19,000 turkeys during the 2018 spring season. Hunters must report deer and turkey harvests within seven days.
Hunters in New York harvested an estimated 227,787 deer during the 2018-19 hunting seasons, approximately 12 percent more than the previous season, State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos announced recently.
“Hunting benefits all New Yorkers by reducing negative impacts of deer on forests, agricultural crops, and communities, while contributing an estimated $690 million to the state’s economy through hunting-related expenses and license purchases, which helps support conservation and resource management efforts at DEC,” said Commissioner Seggos.
The estimated deer take included 114,402 antlerless deer and 113,385 antlered bucks. 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.
“Whether through organized deer hunting cooperatives or due to personal decisions, it’s exciting to see how the voluntary choice of hunters to Let Young Bucks Go and Watch them Grow is shifting our buck harvest,” Seggos said. “Many hunters desire to see older, large bucks on the landscape, and as hunters choose to pass on shots at young bucks, that change is happening.”
In addition, hunters increased the rate at which they reported their harvest in 2018, for the second year in a row. Although harvest reporting is required by law, the portion of successful hunters who report their harvest has averaged around 45 percent for the past decade. Hunters have increased their reporting rates to 50 percent in 2017, and 51 percent in 2018. Along with DEC’s Take It-Tag It-Report It campaign, the agency has made the process of harvest reporting easier for hunters by providing phone, internet, and mobile app options. Harvest reports are critically important for accurate monitoring of deer harvests, and DEC hopes hunters continue to contribute to the management process by complying with the reporting requirements.
More news from Albany this week was the long awaited announcement for the 2019-20 waterfowl season dates new bag limits. Each year, DEC works with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Atlantic Flyway Council to develop waterfowl hunting regulations and season dates. This year, DEC, with the assistance of Cornell University and the waterfowl hunter task forces, implemented a new process for selection the 60-day duck season dates within the dates allowed by the USFWS. New York duck seasons offer opportunity to hunt from the first week of October through the last Sunday in January, depending on the waterfowl hunting zone. By having five waterfowl zones, it allows DEC to select dates that maximize duck abundance in each zone which varies based on habitat and latitude.
Western Zone duck season dates will be Oct. 19 through Nov. 10 and Nov. 30 through Jan. 5, 2020. Due to a slow, but steady decline in mallards across the northeastern United States, the MALLARD daily bag limit has been reduced from four birds (two hens) to two birds with one being a hen.
Canada goose hunting regulations can often be confusing because of the number of zones, varied bag limits and season lengths. Although some of the boundaries and bag limit differences appear to be random, they were designed using scientific data to maximize opportunity for resident Canada geese, but also to protect migratory populations that are much more sensitive to hunter harvest. Season lengths and bag limits are, again, developed in collaboration between the USFWS and the Atlantic Flyway Council. Goose season dates will be Sept. 1-25 with 15-bird limit and Oct. 28 through Jan. 13, 2020 with a five-bird daily limit.
The past several duck hunting seasons begin with designated “youth waterfowl hunts” across the state. These hunts allow youth hunters to spend time afield with experienced adult hunters and gain necessary knowledge and skills to become safe and responsible members of the hunting community. Junior hunters (12 to 15 years of age) are accompanied by a licensed adult hunter with up-to-date Harvest Information Program registration and a duck stamp may participate. During the youth hunt, the adult hunter may not possess a firearm or shoot any birds unless the respective regular season is open. Daily bag limits are the same as those allowed during the regular hunting season for all species (excludes September Canada goose bag limits). The youth hunts are held on weekends in each zone of the state (Southeastern Zone, Sept. 21-22; Northeastern Zone, Sept. 21-22; Lake Champlain Zone, Sept. 28-29; and the Western Zone, Oct. 5-6.
These are major shifts and changes for waterfowl hunters, and in coming weeks we’ll be discussing more on dates and daily limits