U.S. 2020-2021 Buck Harvest Was the Highest of the Century

by Joe Rutland
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The United States had a banner 2021 buck harvest. It was the highest of the century, too. These numbers are out of sight. So, deer hunters harvested an estimated 6.3 million white-tailed deer in the 2020-21 hunting season. That is the most since 2011. This news comes through the National Deer Association’s latest Deer Report. Harvests of both antlered bucks and antlerless deer were up over the 2019 season.

By The Numbers:

  • 2021 estimated buck harvest was 3,041,544, the most in 21 years.
  • Total was up 5.3 percent from previous season.
  • Antlerless harvest jumped 12 percent from previous season.

2021 Buck Harvest Saw Steady Percentage Climb of Older Deer

Kip Adams, who is the Chief Conservation Officer for the National Deer Association, had some thoughts about this. “2020 saw the highest buck harvest in the new century, and amazingly we estimate that we set another new record for the percentage of those bucks that were 3½ years old or older,” Adams said. “U.S. hunters are taking fewer yearling bucks and killing more of them as mature deer, but this doesn’t mean fewer bucks harvested overall. We’re killing older bucks and more bucks than ever in America.”

The 2021 buck harvest saw a steadily climbing percentage of 3½-and-older bucks. This is the result of declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1½ years old). Just 26 percent of the 2020 antlered buck harvest was yearlings, another new record low in modern history. We get more about this from Outdoor News.

So, the total buck harvest of 3,041,544 was up 5.3 percent from the previous season. It’s estimated that 41 percent of them were 3½ or older, or 1.2 million. Hunters killed slightly more bucks in total in the record 1999 season. But the national harvest at that time was more than 50 percent yearlings.

Antlerless Harvest Rose 12 Percent From Previous Season

Therefore, the 2020 season likely saw the greatest number of mature bucks killed by American hunters in modern history. This report covered data for the 2020-21 hunting season, which is the most recent season with complete harvest data available from all major deer states.

Nationally, the antlerless harvest (which includes does and buck fawns) jumped 12 percent from the previous season to 3,207,937. This reverses a three-year decline and puts the number back above 3 million for the first time since 2013.

The antlerless harvest estimates also climbed above the antlered buck harvest for the first time since 2016. Modern antlerless harvests first surpassed the buck harvest in the 1999 season. They remained there until it dipped slightly below the buck harvest in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Outsider.com