Outdoors: It’s time to purchase your hunting license for season

The latest on the outdoors from The Recorder's Jerrod Vila

Today marks the first day that hunting licenses go on sale for the 2020-21 season. The license year covers Sept. 1, 2020, through Aug. 31, 2021.

I am actually surprised by the number of people who do not realize this fact. A few years back, the license year ran from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.

A topic came up in one of the online forums about September early-bear and the northern zone bow season. The amount of responses that thought it was OK to be using “last year’s” tags and/or license during the month of September was pretty mind boggling to say the least. Yes, maybe five years ago or so, this was indeed the case.

Early September bear season and the first four days of northern zone archery season required a hunter to be carrying the previous years license. Hence the fact that one could feasibly harvest a “free deer” per say during those first four days of the season (Sept. 27-30) provided they still had a valid tag from the previous year’s season, if a hunter was successful during those particular three days, they still possessed all tags to hunt with for the current season year (which began Oct. 1).

This apparently caused issue amongst the DEC as a few seasons like early bear, goose, and northern zone archery, began in September, so as to alleviate the issue entirely the easiest fix was to just move the dates of the valid license year. Problem solved. The license year now running from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31 there are no opening days that begin in August, therefore causing no overlap of license years. Hunters just need to realize this fact as well and keep up to date with ever changing season dates and privileges.

Also on a license note, quite a few friends and I who have lifetime licenses usually receive them in the mail sometime in mid-July. However, nothing as of yet for any of us, so if you have a lifetime license and have not received it yet, do not worry. No one else has either. 

Another notable mention in regards to hunting licenses is applying for DMPs (Deer Management Permits) or better known as doe permits. Hunters may select up to two Wildlife Management Units (WMU) for a first and second choice of receiving a permit to harvest an antlerless deer. They may be selected at the initial time of purchase or any time prior to Oct. 1.


So we as hunters go through this process every year, “Yeah, I got 4A but not 6R,” or, “I didn’t get either choice but I got  preference points” and so on.

Every WMU has a set number of allocated permits to be distributed randomly, for the most part, to hunters applying to receive one in that particular WMU. The majority of the WMUs around our local hunting area saw a decrease of .1 to 2 DMPs per square mile of area in contrast to an overall increase across most other portions of the state.

Ironically enough, the only area which is listed as a decrease DMP target of more than two per square mile was WMU 4J (the Albany County bowhunting-only zone). That contradicts itself to other data listed by the DEC as in the allocation of DMPs issued for 4J was to “maximize” both first- and second-choice issuance both deemed high percentages of drawing. If you apply for a 4J DMP you will most likely get it.

How those numbers come to be is actually rather simple and are established within five steps. The process of determining the desired adult female (doe) harvest requires biologists to consider a variety of factors that influence population dynamics. Here is the essence of the permit setting process:

  • Step 1: Assess deer population status relative to the objective.

Deer population trajectory objectives (increase, stay the same, decrease) are assigned to each WMU based on public interests and assessments of deer-impacts to forests. Biologists use adult buck harvest density (bucks taken per square mile of habitat) as an index of deer abundance within each WMU, and review trends in this index to determine whether the population is changing consistent with the objective.

It’s not quite as simple, though, as seeing that the buck take went up and assuming that the population must be increasing. Biologists also study previous levels of doe harvest and observe how they influenced recent buck harvests. We monitor indices of herd health and productivity through annual measurements of yearling antler beam diameters and fawn to doe harvest ratios, and we consider likely impact of winter conditions on deer survival based on the number of days with temperatures below zero and snow deeper than 15 inches.

All of these factors weigh into the biologists’ interpretation of whether or not the deer population is on track to meet the objective.

  • Step 2: Determine the desired doe harvest.

Based upon the deer population status assessment, DEC biologists decide whether additional, fewer, or roughly the same number of does need to be harvested during the next hunting season to modify population growth according to the WMU’s objective. Biologists review recent trends in doe harvest and determine the desired total doe harvest.

  • Step 3: Calculate the target doe harvest on DMPs.

Because does can also be harvested during bow and muzzleloader season and on DMAP tags, we review harvest records for each WMU to determine the desired doe harvest on DMPs.

(Desired total doe harvest minus the number of adult does taken by muzzleloader hunters and archers and on DMAP tags equals target doe harvest on DMPs.)

  • Step 4: Add in the expected fawn take.

All antlerless deer, including fawns and adult does, can be taken on DMPs, and the proportion of fawns in the harvest varies by WMU. So, biologist review harvest records and adjust the desired DMP take to include fawns.

(Target doe harvest on DMPs divided by the percentage of adult doe in DMP harvest = total desired DMP harvest.)

  • Step 5: Account for hunter success.

Not all of the DMPs issued result in a harvested deer, and that success rate varies by WMU. Biologists use past DMP harvest success to adjust the target DMP issuance level to ensure the desired number of antlerless deer and the desired number of does are harvested.

(Total desired DMP harvest divided by DMP success rate equals total number of DMPs to issue.)

The probability of drawing a first and second choice DMP for some of the local WMUs are as follows:

  • 4A: 2,300 available. Medium probability first choice. None will be given as a second choice.
  • 4G: 2,000 available. Preference points required for first choice. None will be given as a second choice.
  • 4F: 15,300 available. High probability first choice. Preference points required for second choice.
  • 4J: Maximize amount of antlerless deer harvested. High probability first choice. High probability second choice as well.
  • 5R: 8,600 available. High probability first choice. Medium probability second choice.
  • 6R: 6,500 available. High probability first choice. Low probability second choice.
  • 6S: 5,500 available. High probability first choice. Preference points required for second choice.
  • 7M: 24,000 available. High probability first choice. Medium probability second choice.

Categories: Sports

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