I recently reported on the deer harvest numbers here in the Mountain State. As a summary: The harvest was 7.5 percent higher than the 2019 harvest of 99,437 deer and 6 percent below the five-year average of 113,444.
Being born with a curious mind, I began to search for other deer harvest-related data that was recently published and relevant (plus, with the recent frozen world we’ve been living in, to be honest, I needed something to do related to the out-of-doors).
I stumbled across this report and found it interesting. Deer hunters in the United States took more adult and mature bucks in the 2019-20 hunting season than ever reported, based on a near-record buck harvest of 2.9 million and a record 39 percent of those bucks estimated to be 3 1/2 years or older.
This is one of many new insights of the National Deer Association’s 2021 Deer Report, a comprehensive update on the status of deer populations and deer hunting, recently released.
“Hunters now shoot far more bucks that are at least 3 1/2 years old than 1 1/2 years,” said Kip Adams, NDA’s chief conservation officer. “This is very different from hunting seasons a decade or two ago.”
The steadily climbing percentage of 3 1/2-and-older bucks in the harvest is the result of steadily declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1 1/2 years old). Only 28 percent 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 percent down from the record buck harvest of 2017. As a region, the Northeast bucked this trend, increasing its buck harvest 4 percent over the 2018 season.
The new 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 percent 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 percent in the decade from 2009 to 2019. This decline was felt most sharply in the Midwest, where the decline over that period was 27 percent. Long-term reductions in buck and antlerless harvests have many hunters concerned, and for good reason. Harvest declines of 20 to 50 percent 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, 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:
l Sixty-four percent of deer taken in the 2019-20 season were killed with a firearm, compared to 25 percent with archery equipment and 10 percent with a muzzleloader.
l New Jersey had the highest percentage of deer harvest with archery equipment at 63 percent, Rhode Island was highest with muzzleloaders at 48 percent and Idaho was highest in rifle/shotgun deer harvest with 94 percent.
l Texas had the highest total buck harvest at 460,242.
l Michigan killed the most bucks per square mile at 3.7.
l Mississippi killed the most bucks per 100 hunters at 70.