Abstract

Title:  Using Structured Decision Making to Guide Recommendations for Buck Harvest Management in New York
Author(s): Jeremy E. Hurst - New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Kelly F. Robinson - New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University; Angela K. Fuller - New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University; Bryan Swift - New York Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources; Arthur Kirsch - New York Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources; James Farquhar - New York Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources; James Kelly - New York Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Fish, Wildlife & Marine Resources
Year: 2016
Abstract: Buck harvest strategies have been a divisive and highly politicized issue among deer hunters in New York. Although a majority of deer hunters have voiced a desire for regulations to reduce harvest of yearling bucks, a similar majority of hunters value the freedom to choose which buck they harvest. To make informed recommendations to policy makers, we used a structured decision making (SDM) framework to evaluate potential buck harvest strategies while accounting for regional variation in hunter values and deer population status. Our primary objectives were to: (1) maximize hunter satisfaction, (2) minimize impact on our ability to manage and monitor deer populations, and (3) minimize management costs. We considered six strategies that could impact yearling buck harvest and hunter choice and opportunity to varying degrees. These included: (1) no change, (2) promotion of voluntary antler restrictions, (3) a 1 buck per year limit, (4) shortening the regular firearms season, (5) mandatory antler point restrictions for part of the season, and (6) mandatory antler point restrictions during all seasons. We created a population model and used a hunter survey to evaluate how well each of the six alternatives would achieve each of the primary objectives regionally, and we used input from agency managers and deer hunters to assess the relative importance of each objective. Thus, the SDM process allowed us to identify recommendations for buck harvest strategies that may best balance competing interests in various regions of New York.

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