2013 New Hampshire Deer Hunt Outlook
By Dan Bergeron, N.H. Fish and Game Deer Project Leader
The 2013 New Hampshire deer season should be the best we’ve seen since 2007, when 13,339 deer were taken by hunters (the second highest total recorded). In parts of the state, the deer population has recovered from declines following some severe winters beginning in 2007-08, and deer numbers are improving in many other areas.
Over the past two years, the deer kill has been increasing from a recent low of 9,759 in 2010. The 2012 kill was 11,612, up roughly 5% from the 2011 harvest. Fall foods in 2012 were not as abundant as 2011 and somewhat below the 15 year average. However, some food sources were still locally abundant. Acorns were more abundant than in 2011, and around the 15-year average. Despite the lower average fall food year, deer likely still went into last winter in relatively good shape.
An easy winter: The winter of 2012-13 turned out to be another mild winter for deer. Temperatures were generally above normal and snow depths rarely exceeded 18 inches anywhere in the state, except in the far north. During the winter of 2012-13, the winter severity index (WSI), a measure of the affect of winter on deer survival based on snow depth and minimum temperature, tied the second lowest statewide average value since Fish and Game began WSI monitoring in 1964-65. In most of the state, deer were not confined to wintering areas and were free to wander and take advantage of widespread food sources. Winter mortality was low and does came through the winter in good shape, so fawn production and survival in the spring of 2013 should have been well above average.
Population goals: In many of New Hampshire’s Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), the deer population is still below goal and limited either-sex hunting will continue in an effort to help build the deer population. But, in addition, the winters of 2011-12 and 2012-13 should contribute significantly to increasing deer numbers in those areas. With increasing deer numbers, either-sex days will continue to be offered in some WMUs for the 2013 season, and the archery season will continue to be either-sex hunting for its entire length, providing additional hunting opportunity. Be sure to check the “2013-14 New Hampshire Hunting & Trapping Digest” for 2013 season details, including WMU-specific regulations when it becomes available (click here and on publication cover).
Youth weekend: More abundant deer this fall will provide a great opportunity to take a young person deer hunting on New Hampshire’s youth weekend, October 26-27, 2013. Youth hunters took 388 deer during the 2012 youth weekend, and increased deer numbers will provide an exciting opportunity for kids under 16 to begin, or learn more about, deer hunting under the guidance of a licensed hunter age 18 or older.
Apprentice hunting license: Apprentice hunting licenses will again be available during the 2013 season. These licenses providepersons 16 and over, who have not yet completed a hunter education course, the opportunity to deer hunt under the guidance of a licensed hunter age 18 or older. This program gives people who may not have grown up with family or friends that hunted, or simply think they would enjoy the experience of being outdoors and learning the skills of deer hunting, the chance to give it a try. In 2012, a total of 1,666 individuals (1,241 men and 425 women) took advantage of the apprentice license program hunting everything from deer to migratory waterfowl. Click here to learn more about being an apprentice or accompanying an apprentice hunter.
Special Unit-M antlerless only permits: These special permits are once again available for the 2013 season to help control deer numbers in the southeast portion of the state, where the potential for deer-human conflicts is the highest. Again in 2013, a total of 4,000 permits are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis; at the time of purchase, a hunter may opt for a permit with either one or two antlerless deer tags. Permits are available online or at Fish and Game headquarters in Concord (click here for more information and to purchase).
Wildlife Harvest Summary: Hunters can begin their scouting for this fall now in air-conditioned comfort by reviewing the “2012 N.H. Wildlife Harvest Summary.” This publication provides information and additional detail on last year’s deer and other big game seasons, and is available for review on the NH Fish and Game website (click here and on publication cover). Hard copies are available at Fish and Game regional offices and at headquarters in Concord.
Great outlook for 2013: Deer numbers are continuing to rise following two mild winters and this fall season is shaping up to be one of the best we’ve seen in several years. Both seasoned and beginner hunters alike should have an increased opportunity to see and harvest deer. So get out there this fall, start scouting, introduce a friend to the sport, and Hunt New Hampshire!