A new report from the National Deer Association shows that more mature antlered deer are being taken
While the Pennsylvania Game Commission has not yet issued their annual deer harvest report for the recent deer hunting seasons, the National Deer Association (NDA), a non-profit deer conservation group that leads efforts to ensure the future of wild deer, wildlife habitat and hunting, has issued an interesting national report.
NDA’s study reveals that deer hunters in the United States took more adult and mature bucks in the 2019-20 hunting season than ever reported. This is based on a near-record buck harvest of 2.9 million and a record 39% of those bucks estimated to be 3? years or older. Their 2021 Deer Report is a recent and comprehensive update on the status of deer populations and deer hunting.
Says Ki Adams, NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer, “Hunters now shoot far more bucks that are at least 3? years old than 1? years. This is very different from hunting seasons a decade or two ago.”
Those statistics seem to be true for Pennsylvania since Gary Alt, PGC deer biologist at the time, instituted statewide antler restrictions. At the time, Alt took a lot of criticism for doing this, but in retrospect, his plan is showing success as indicated in NDA’s report.
The report goes on to say the steadily climbing percentage of 3?-and-older bucks in the harvest is the result of steadily declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1? years old). Only 28% of the 2019 antlered buck harvest was yearlings, the lowest rate ever reported. The total buck harvest of 2,885,991 was only 2.5% down from the record buck harvest of 2017. As a region, the Northeast bucked this trend, increasing its buck harvest 4% over the 2018 season.
NDA’s deer report covers data for the 2019-20 hunting season, the most recent season with complete harvest data available from all major deer states.
Nationally, the antlerless harvest (which includes does and buck fawns) declined 1% from the previous season to 2,864,698 and for the third year in a row was lower than the antlered buck harvest. Modern antlerless harvests first surpassed the buck harvest in the 1999 season and remained higher until 2017.
The antlerless harvest has now declined 12% in the decade from 2009 to 2019. This decline was felt most sharply in the Midwest, where the decline over that period was 27%. Long-term reductions in buck and antlerless harvests have many hunters concerned, and for good reason. Harvest declines of 20 to 50% are very noticeable, and state wildlife agencies and legislators hear the brunt of this frustration from hunters. Deer management is in a very different period today than a decade ago, says the NDA, and how closely legislators, wildlife agencies and hunters work together will dictate our future deer management successes.
Among other facts to be found in the new Deer Report:
* 64% of deer taken in the 2019-20 season were killed with a firearm compared to 25% with archery equipment and 10% with a muzzleloader.
* New Jersey had the highest percentage of deer harvest with archery equipment at 63%, Rhode Island was highest with muzzleloaders at 48%, and Idaho was highest in rifle/shotgun deer harvest with 94%
* Texas had the highest total buck harvest at 460,242.
* Michigan killed the most bucks per square mile at 3.7.
* Mississippi killed the most bucks per 100 hunters at 70.
NDA’s 2021 Deer Report is available for free download at this link: https://www.deerassociation.com/2021-deer-report/
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Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.