June 07, 2016
For whatever reason, New York doesn't get all that much publicity as a bowhunting hotspot. But this state has a long history of outstanding archery hunting — and it continues to produce plenty of exceptional whitetails every bow season.
New York has a bowhunter base of roughly a quarter-million participants, with a recent influx of younger archers having fueled a surge of interest. Dropping the minimum bowhunting age from 14 to 12 (which happened several years ago) has lured thousands of new hunters into the field.
Your first thought might be that one of the nation's most heavily populated states would have difficulty producing many big whitetails. Between hunting pressure and road traffic, how might a New York buck possibly live long enough to grow a 125-inch set of antlers?
As it turns out, there are pockets of relatively light hunting pressure here. And despite the number of vehicles, many bucks dodge bumpers long enough to end up in taxidermy shops instead of road ditches.
The two main "hot zones" for trophy bow bucks in New York both feature relatively light hunting pressure. But they're widely separated on the map and could hardly seem more different from each other. One of these pockets lies in the southeastern corner of the state, while the other is far to the west. These are the places that keep pumping out P&Y qualifiers. So if you're looking for a bragging-sized rack, pay close attention. History doesn't lie.
Westchester and Suffolk counties are well known for their huge bucks. Due to the amount of unhuntable land in these suburban counties just outside New York City, many bucks there get a chance to reach maturity.
If you can gain access to land near off-limits private estates and other such tracts, you have a very good chance of getting a shot at a trophy deer.
Westchester, just north of the city, leads the state in terms of all-time P&Y entries. However, Long Island's Suffolk County has come on strong of late and in fact leads all of New York in entries since 2010.
This area's high human population density and habitat stand in sharp contrast to what you'll find in some of the rural counties of western New York. Out west, concrete and pavement give way to varied forms of agriculture — orchards, vineyards, vegetable farms and dairies — and way more elbow room for deer and hunters alike. Orleans County, for instance, is home to only about 110 people per square mile, compared to Westchester's 2,200.
"The two main "hot zones" for trophy bow bucks in New York both feature relatively light hunting pressure. But they're widely separated on the map and could hardly seem more different from each other."
There's also light overall hunting pressure on deer, making for outstanding trophy prospects. That said, it's worth noting that some of the more developed parts of western New York also have turned out their share of big bucks.
Many bowhunters who hunt near Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and other regional cities have fine bow bucks on their walls. In these suburban enclaves, the deer hunting is perhaps more similar to what you'd find around NYC. Locate the right tract and you could be in business.
Any attempt to point fellow hunters to the "best" places risks offending those who hunt elsewhere and feel those locations are just as worthy of praise.
While the counties highlighted here and on the accompanying map have great track records, scattered pockets of solid trophy potential exist all over the state; a P&Y candidate could come from anywhere.
So the recommendations made in this overview are simply a starting point for prospective trophy chasers. You'll need to do your own field reconnaissance to narrow down the very best spots for your situation — but rest assured, they're out there.
For more on New York's top bow bucks, visit New York State Big Buck Club. For details on trophy bow kills from around North America, check out Pope & Young Club.