Harvest Deer Numbers Soar, Break Previous Records: Here are the Numbers and Why

by Clayton Edwards

Saying that 2020 has been a tough year may be the understatement of the century. There were some bright spots for some, though. For many Americans, those bright spots came from spending time in the outdoors. For many hunters, it was their first time in the woods. Others hadn’t had the opportunity to hunt for years. The number of deer harvested in the 2020 hunting season reflects the increase in hunters.

Due to the pandemic, many people found themselves inspired to take up outdoor activities. Between the serenity of the woods and the separation from other people and less need for social distancing concerns, hunting seems like a natural decision. A successful hunt will also save a family some money on the grocery bill. It’s pretty easy to see why hunting has become so popular this year.

It stands to reason that more hunters means more successful hunts.

Not every state makes a running total of the number of deer harvested during the season available. However, the available stats show some impressive increases in successful deer hunts.

Number of Harvested Deer Is Up Across the Country

The big takeaway from the available data is that the number of harvested deer is up everywhere. Some states are seeing record numbers while others are seeing 5-10 year highs. No matter how you look at it, this is an exciting year to be a deer hunter.

East Coast Increases in Harvested Deer

Even with many seasons still active, numbers of harvested deer are up on the East Coast. From Maine to North Carolina, more hunters are out in the woods and stocking their freezers with venison.

While their harvest report isn’t currently available, New York is expecting an increase in filled deer tags. This year saw record-breaking hunting license sales in the state. Last year’s statewide deer harvest total was 224. This year’s total should be impressive.

Now, let’s look at some available numbers form the region.

Maine Hunters Are Having a Great Year

According to the Bangor Daily News, the number of harvested deer is at an eighteen-year high. This year, hunters reported 33,157 deer in the state. That is the highest it has been since 2002’s total of just over 38,000.

Nathan Bieber, deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said that the total may change slightly after final calculations are made. However, it won’t be a significant change.

Bieber said that sales of deer hunting permits were up almost ten percent over previous years. This, and the fact that people have more free time to hunt this year, contributed to the increased harvest rate.

Vermont Numbers Are Up Despite New Regulations

Addison County, Vermont reported a record-breaking deer season. This year, hunters tagged out 1.745 deer in Addison County alone. It is the highest number of harvested deer since the Addison County Independent started tracking deer harvest reports. The current harvest is 400 more deer than the previous record.

Officials say that the deer harvests are up statewide. This is even with some changes in regulations and new limitations on buck harvests. While the state extended youth hunting season to include all new hunters and added an early muzzleloader season they also limited hunters to one buck this season.

Increased Deer Harvests in the South East

Southeastern states are seeing higher numbers of harvested deer this year as well. In a region full of outdoorsmen in normal times, it is no surprise that this year has seen an increase in hunting and successful hunts.

Young Tennessee Hunters Are Filling Freezers

As of mid-November, Tennessee hunters had harvested more deer since the same time in 2016. According to authorities, it isn’t just the number of harvested deer that is significant.

More deer were killed on weekdays this year than in other seasons. Youth hunters took twice as many deer this year than in 2019. Kids harvested around 6,000 deer during Tennessee’s juvenile hunting season. Last year the total was close to 3,000.

Both of these things can likely be attributed to the pandemic. More hunters can get out in the woods during the week due to COVID-19’s effects on the economy. At the same time, many kids were out of school for a large portion of the hunting season. This allowed parents to take their young hunters out to fill their tags.

Live Numbers from North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the few states that makes live reports available to the public. The statewide total is currently 160,542 deer.

This is a steep increase over the past three years. The highest yield in that period was just over 146,000. That puts this year’s deer harvest at 14,000 over the highest, and the seasons aren’t over just yet.

Deer Harvests in the Midwest

With long stretches of flat land spotted with forests, the Midwest is a great place to hunt deer. In fact, the current world record buck was harvested from this region earlier this year. It’s no surprise that the midwest has seen increased license purchases as well as deer harvests this year.

Indiana Harvest Numbers at a 5-Year High

The number of deer harvested in Indiana is higher than it has been in five years. Currently, Indiana hunters have tagged out 120,305 deer. In the 2015 season, they bagged just over 124,000. In some areas of the state, hunting season will continue until the end of January. There is still time for this season to overtake the 2015 season.

Wisconsin Harvest Totals Up From 2019

Hunting has been on a steady decline for years. 2020 has seen increased hunting across all species and all states. Wisconsin’s numbers are up this year after a relatively low number of harvested deer last year. The deer harvest this year is 321,238. This is an increase from last year’s total of just over 291,000.

A Look at the Numbers Overall

With COVID-19 putting many Americans out of work or limiting their schedules, they have more time to pursue hunting and other outdoor activities. Some see hunting as a way to offset some of the cost of putting food on the table. At the same time, many children have been out of school A great way to get the kids out of the house is to take them to the woods. All of these things have come together to create one of the most active hunting seasons in recent history.

With more hunters afield, it is no surprise that harvest numbers are on the rise. Some experts say that this year could potentially reverse the decline in the popularity of hunting. Long-time hunters know that once you get bit by the hunting bug it’s hard to stay out of the woods.

There’s a good chance that the trend in increased hunters and harvests will continue for years to come. If there’s one positive thing about 2020, that might just be it.