Pennsylvania’s 2021-22 deer harvest figures are in and they show a 13 percent decrease over the 2020-21 seasons.
Hunters took an estimated 376,810 whitetails of which 145,320 were bucks and 231,490 were antlerless deer. This is in comparison to 2020-21 seasons when a total of 435,180 deer were harvested.
The decrease is no cause for concern according to David Stainbrook, PGC deer and elk section supervisor. “The 2020-21 was above average and the 2021-22 season is back on track with previous years.” He added that 22 percent of hunters took an antlered deer which is right in line with the previous four-year average and better than in years past.
Said Stainbrook, “The harvest also points to how antlerless allocations – and not length of seasons – drive deer harvests. The 2021 firearms deer season featured two weeks of concurrent buck and doe hunting for the first time statewide in more than a decade, yet with the number of antlerless tags available down compared to the year before, the overall harvest was lower.”
Of the deer harvested, many of the bucks were older. Sixty-two percent of antlered deer taken by hunters were 2.5 years or older while only 38 percent were 1.5 years old. “That’s an almost complete reversal of how things were even two decades ago, opines PGC Executive Director Bryan Burhans who credited how hunters embraced antler restrictions in place since 2002.” That’s when Gary Alt, then PGC deer biologist, took lots of heat from sportsmen for implementing those restrictions that now has proven beneficial.
Among antlerless deer harvested, 69 percent were adult females, 16 percent were button bucks and 15 percent were doe fawns. All of those figures said Stainbrook are consistent with long-term averages.
As in years past, bowhunters accounted for a little over one-third of the total deer harvested taking 130,650 deer of which 68,580 were bucks and 62,070 were antlerless deer. And they were taken with either bows or crossbows. During the 2020-21 seasons, bowhunters tallied 160,480 deer of which 80,130 were bucks and 80,350 were antlerless.
The 2021-22 estimated muzzleloader harvest was 21,060 of which 1,020 were bucks and 20,040 were antlerless deer. The 2020-21 muzzleloader tally was 28,260 (1,140 bucks, 27,120 antlerless).
Within three local Wildlife Management Areas, the firearms tallies are as follows with the 2020-21 totals in parentheses and antlered deer will be represented as A and antlerless as AL:
WMU 3D: 4,700 A (6,200), and 6,300 AL (6.400).
WMU 4C: 5,700 A (7,000) and 6,400 AL (8,100).
WMU 5C: 6,600 A (8,400) and 14,700 AL (15,200).
For archery and muzzleloader specific seasons, their totals are as follows for three local WMUs:
WMU 3D: archery, 1980 A (2,670) and 1,500 AL (2,240); muzzleloader, 20 A (30) and 500 AL (760).
WMU 4C: archery, 2,870 A (3,260) and 1,750 AL (2,890); muzzleloader, 30 A (40), and 550 AL (1,010); WMU 5C: archery, 4,730 A (5,810) and 6,890 AL (7,410); muzzleloader, 70 A (90) and 810 AL (990).
Although the numbers were slightly down, Stainbrook contends that hunters were able to replicate a level of harvest that speaks to just how sustainable our deer population is here in Pennsylvania.
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.