Deer hunting season is upon us in New York State. Bowhunters are roaming the woods looking for that once-in-a-lifetime whitetail deer. I am not a hunter but fish enough to have a lot of friends that are hunters. My brain can only handle my fishing obsession. Through the years, I have heard people say that all of the big bucks are gone and to some extent that is true, based on quantity. However, the quality of New York State whitetail deer is still out there.

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According to February's Field & Stream magazine, in Appleton, New York just off Lake Ontario, "Bowhunter (and Gulf War Vet!) Phillip Pless arrowed the 18-point (214 1/4") drop-tine behemoth on November 8th, and the rack was officially scored and declared a new record late last month. And Pless wasn’t the only whitetail hunter to arrow state-record buck in New York last season. Another bowhunter had a 197-inch typical buck on Long Island." That is two 200" bucks within a few weeks. More than the meat and the hide, the antlers are the prize for many of the sports most seasoned hunters.

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It appears that New York State hunters would prefer to allow bucks to grow their antlers today for a better hunting experience. According to a cool article by David Figura, on newyorkupstate.com, after surveying hunters in 2015-16 the DEC decided against implementing larger "antler restricted areas" and put voluntary antler restrictions on the entire state.

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Five years later, there are encouraging signs that the voluntary approach is working.

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Figura quoted Jeremy Hurst, the DEC’s big game unit leader, "What we’ve seen is the harvest of young bucks has dropped considerably over the past 10 years – the past five years in particular..It used to be that 60 percent of our harvest was yearling deer. Now, we’re taking 40 percent. That means that 60 percent of our buck harvest is two years or older. In fact, for the past two years hunters are taking more two-year-olds than one-year-olds.”

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The article quotes the DEC, “Older bucks are more challenging to hunt and yield more meat for the successful hunter. These bucks create more rubs and scrapes and vocalize more - all things that add to the hunting experience.” This seems like a great program that will ensure whitetail bucks with big antlers are more plentiful for New York State hunters for years to come.

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