The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 19, 2012

‘Whitetails foundation of hunting’

By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

— “More hunters pursue whitetails than any other species, and whitetail hunters contribute more financially than any other type of hunter. Collectively speaking, whitetails are the foundation of the entire hunting industry,” stated the Quality Deer Management Association in their recent whitetail report.

Every year, the QDMA produces an annual report on whitetail trends. The 60-page report lists information on harvests, species’ range, sex ratio and other popular management topics in the United States and Canada. I have listed below a few facts from the report that I found interesting.

The 2011-12 deer season is closed or nearing so for states/provinces across the whitetail’s range, and biologists will be crunching data in the coming months to assess the outcome of this past season. For the 2012 Whitetail Report, QDMA compared harvest data from the three most recent seasons available: 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11.

More bucks were harvested in 2010 than in 2009, according to the data from 35 states compiled in the 2012 Whitetail Report. In general, of the 35 states they received data from for the past two seasons, 54 percent of them shot more antlered bucks in 2010 than in 2009.

Antlered Buck Harvest

n Buck harvest for all the regions of the United States in 2010 was 2,776,867. Canada’s total harvest for six provinces (Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan) was 116,147.

n The top five states for the 2010 antlered buck harvest were Texas with 357,378 bucks, Michigan (212,341), Georgia (155,255), Wisconsin (148,378) and Alabama (129,000).

n The top five states for 2010 buck harvest per square mile were Texas at 5.8 bucks per square mile, South Carolina (4.8), Wisconsin (4.4), Indiana (4.3) and Georgia (4.1).

In the Northeast, hunters shot 479,188 antlered bucks. This was 3 percent fewer than in 2009, but nine of 13 states actually shot more bucks in 2010. The lower total buck harvest was largely due to West Virginia shooting 27 percent fewer bucks in 2010. The largest mast crop on record and extreme rain in parts of the state during the first two days of the season significantly reduced West Virginia hunters’ success.

Virginia also shot 12 percent fewer bucks while Pennsylvania (plus-13 percent), Delaware (plus-15 percent) and Rhode Island (plus-28 percent) all enjoyed banner years. Numerically, Pennsylvania shot the most bucks (122,930), followed by New York (106,960) and Virginia (95,831). The Northeast averaged shooting 2.1 bucks per square mile and ranged from 0.4 buck in Maine to 3.8 per square mile in Maryland and New Jersey.

Buck Harvest Age Structure

Western states did not report their harvested buck age data, therefore they are excluded from the findings.

n The top six states with the lowest yearling-buck harvest rates are Kansas at 9 percent of all harvested bucks being yearlings, Arkansas (10 percent), Louisiana (17), Missouri  (17) and Rhode Island and Texas, which both averaged 22 percent yearling bucks.

n The top five states with the highest harvest of 3 1/2-year-old and older bucks were Arkansas with 68 percent of bucks that were taken were 3 1/2 or older, Louisiana (65 percent), Texas (59), Kansas (56) and Oklahoma (51).

Antlerless Harvest

n Antlerless harvest totaled 3,347,150 in the United States. In six Canadian provinces (Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan) the total harvest amount was 80,587.

n The top five states for antlerless harvest in 2010 were Texas with 330,698, Georgia with 308,747, Alabama with 208,000, Michigan 205,509 and Pennsylvania with 193,310.

The Northeast shot 628,826 antlerless deer in 2010, 8 percent fewer than in 2009. Numerically, Rhode Island (1,104) and New Hampshire (3,744) took the fewest while Virginia (126,243) and Pennsylvania (193,310) took the most antlerless deer. Connecticut (+9 percent) and Delaware (plus-14 percent) had the largest increases, while Maine (minus-25 percent) and West Virginia (minus-36 percent) had the largest declines from 2009 to 2010.

Maryland shot the most antlerless deer per square mile (7.5), followed by New Jersey (7.4) and Delaware (6.4). Northern New England averaged the fewest at 0.2 in Maine, 0.5 in New Hampshire and 0.9 antlerless deer harvested per square mile in Vermont — a testament to the differences in deer management programs in states with severe winters.

For the second year in a row, only seven of 13 (54 percent) Northeastern states shot more antlerless deer than antlered bucks. However, five of six states that shot more bucks are in New England. Also for the second year in a row, West Virginia was the only northeastern state not in the extreme northeast portion of this region that harvested fewer antlerless deer than antlered bucks. West Virginia hunters had a tough year as they shot 36 percent fewer antlerless deer and 27 percent fewer antlered bucks in 2010. Hopefully, the 2011 season is better for them.

The northeast averaged shooting 1.2 antlerless deer per antlered buck and this ranged from 0.4 in Maine to 2.6 antlerless deer per antlered buck in Delaware.

If you find yourself with a little downtime this winter, grab a copy of the report and spend some time researching the best state for your next whitetail hunting adventure. As for me, my deposit is heading to Oklahoma or maybe Kansas.

Then again, home is hard to beat.

I really liked Saskatchewan but it can be brutally cold. Alabama sounds nice ... oh, brother!

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Founded in 1988, QDMA is a national nonprofit wildlife conservation organization with nearly 50,000 members in all 50 states and Canada. To learn more about QDMA and to view the entire report, visit