I. Introduction to Buck Age Structure Management In New Hampshire

New Hampshire has had a long history of maintaining older age bucks in the population and the harvest. Statewide since 1987, an average of 44.8% of the antlered buck harvest has been yearlings (age 1.5), and 55.2% of antlered bucks have been 2.5 years old or older. During the past 5 years (2005-2009), the yearling percentage has been up slightly from the long-term average -- 46.6% of antlered bucks have been yearlings. A buck age structure where less than 50% of antlered bucks are yearlings is considered very good. In contrast, many states have had 60% or more (and in the worst cases, for example areas in Pennsylvania a decade ago, approached 90%) of the antlered buck harvest composed of yearlings.

Most of New Hampshire currently has a very good buck age structure
The following table gives recent buck harvest age structure data from several Northeastern states. In addition to having a relatively low percentage harvest of bucks at age 1.5, New Hampshire has among the highest percentage of bucks aged 3.5 or older, without special regulations except in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) A.

State
Percent Antlered
Bucks Age 1.5
Percent Antlered
Bucks Age 3.5+
Connecticut
40%
N/A
Massachusetts
48%
23%
Maine
37%
40%
New Hampshire
45%
29%
New Jersey
64%
N/A
New York
62%
12%
Pennsylvania
52%
13%
Rhode Island
38%
35%
Vermont
15%
26%
Note: Above data from “QDMA’s Whitetail Report 2010”

Buck age structure management (BASM) is necessary in WMU-A
In spite of New Hampshire’s past history of maintaining a good buck age structure without the need for special regulations, when the deer management plan was revised in 2005, it was recognized that maintaining a high percentage of 2.5+ aged bucks in the population and harvest should be a priority. As a result, objective 2-1 of the plan states that the department will "manage regional deer populations to ensure that yearling males don’t exceed 50% of the adult population." When we are confident that this objective is not being met, the department will propose rule changes in an effort to adjust the buck age structure to meet that management objective. In 2006, it was apparent that WMU-A was not meeting this objective and buck age structure management (BASM) methods including shortened seasons and a 2-point minimum antler point restriction (APR) were implemented to help address this concern.

The department has serious concerns over the negative aspects of a 2-point APR, particularly concerns over “high-grading” the future buck population by selectively harvesting yearlings with the biggest antlers leaving “spike-horns” to become future breeders (see www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Hunting/science_behind_seasons_2010.htm for more information). As a result, we do not support the use of a 2-point APR in New Hampshire, and removed the 2-point APR in WMU-A for the 2010 season.

Although New Hampshire currently has a good buck age structure in most of the state, with strong hunter support, buck age structure management could be implemented wherever desired.
While the deer management plan calls for the department to address the buck age structure issue when objective 2-1 is not being met, the plan does not limit the department to only addressing the buck age structure in those cases. With strong support of hunters, BASM could be implemented in other areas. An effort to survey New Hampshire deer hunters in 2010 is partly designed to determine which method of reducing buck harvest is supported by the most hunters when we are compelled to employ BASM methods by the objectives in our plan, as well as to survey hunter’s opinions as to whether or not we should implement buck age structure management in areas that do not exceed the 50% yearling buck threshold of the management plan.

From a biological perspective, buck age structure management is not necessary in any WMU except WMU-A at this time.  However, biologically sound techniques could be implemented without doing any harm if that’s what hunters want. We do, however, want hunters to understand the potential pros and cons of such implementation.

 


About Us
 
NH Fish and Game Dept.
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301

603-271-3421
top bottom background image