Mature Buck Harvest in 2019-20 Hunting Season Breaks National Record

by Emily Morgan

Hunters took more adult and mature bucks in the 2019-20 season than ever, based on a near-record buck harvest of 2.9 million.

In addition, a record 39 percent of those bucks estimated to be three-and-a-half years or older.

The news comes after the release on January 20 as a part of the National Deer Association’s 2021 Deer Report. The report acts as a comprehensive update on deer populations’ status and deer hunting.

“Hunters now shoot far more bucks that are at least three-and-a-half years old than one-and-a-half years,” said NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer, Kip Adams. “This is very different from hunting seasons a decade or two ago.”

As the number of mature bucks (those over three-and-a-half-years-old) steadily increased in the harvest, it wasn’t merely coincidental.

The increase results from steadily declining pressure on yearling bucks (one-and-a-half-years-old).

The recent Deer Report covers data for the 2019-20 hunting season from all significant deer states.

Nationwide, the antlerless harvest, including does and buck fawns, declined one percent from the previous season to 2,864,698.

Successful Hunting & Management Determined By Legislators and Wildlife Agents

The antlerless harvest has declined 12 percent in the last ten years, from 2009 to 2019. The decline was a hard hit for Midwesterners, where the decline over that period was 27 percent.

Steady decreases in buck and antlerless harvests have many deer hunters worried, and for a good reason.

Deer hunters can easily feel the effects of 20 to 50 percent reductions. It also leaves state wildlife agencies and legislators bear the brunt of the stress from hunters.

However, wildlife management is much different in comparison to a decade ago. How closely legislators, wildlife agencies, and deer hunters work together will determine upcoming deer management’s success.

After 12 years, the National Deer Association has made updates to include whitetail subspecies like Coues and Key deer.

Wildlife agencies have renamed the report from the “Whitetail Report” to the “Deer Report.” The 2021 report also contains information and harvest statistics on these other deer species.

“With respect to mule deer, all Western states that provided data reported spending more time and money on managing mule deer as opposed to white-tailed deer, and mule deer were hunted more than whitetails in all but one Western state,” said Adams.

A comprehensive analysis of buck harvests, age structure, and other harvest data is available in the full Deer Report. The report also includes a look at several other critical issues for deer hunters in the future.