The Pennsylvania Game Commission released the results of the 2015-16 deer seasons, which closed in January. Hunters harvested an estimated 315,813 deer – an increase of about 4 percent compared to the 2014-15 harvest of 303,973.
Compared to the previous license year, the antlered deer harvest increased 15% to 137,580. Hunters also harvested an estimated 178,233 antlerless deer
in 2015-16, which represented about a 4 percent decrease compared to the 2014-15 season.
The percentage of older bucks in the harvest might be the most eye-opening number in the report. A
whopping 59 percent of whitetail bucks taken by Pennsylvania hunters
during the 2015-16 deer seasons were 2½ years old or older, making for
the highest percentage of adult bucks in the harvest in decades. This is vastly different from harvests in the past when the majority of bucks were 1.5 years of age. The
antlerless harvest included about 63 percent adult females, about 20
percent button bucks and about 17 percent doe fawns. The rates are
similar to long-term averages.
Commission Wildlife Management Director Wayne Laroche pointed out the
trend of more adult bucks in the harvest started when antler
restrictions were put into place in 2002. More yearling bucks are making it
through the first hunting season through which they carry a rack. Season
after season, a greater proportion of the annual buck harvest has been
made up of adult bucks. “To see that number now at nearly 60 percent is remarkable,” Laroche
said. “It goes to show what antler restrictions have accomplished –
they’ve created a Pennsylvania where every deer hunter in the woods has a
real chance of taking the buck of a lifetime.”
decrease in the 2015-16 antlerless harvest was a predictable outcome,
given that 33,000 fewer antlerless licenses were allocated statewide in
2015-16, compared to the previous year. Reducing
the allocation within a Wildlife Management Unit allows deer numbers to
grow. Records show it takes an allocation of about four
antlerless licenses to harvest one antlerless deer, and the success rate
for antlerless-deer hunters again was consistent at about 25 percent in
estimates are based on more than 24,000 deer checked by Game Commission
personnel and more than 100,000 harvest reports submitted by successful
hunters. Because some harvests go unreported, estimates provide a more
accurate picture of hunter success. However, in 2015-16 the rate at
which successful hunters reported their harvests increased slightly.
staff currently is working to develop 2016-17 antlerless deer license
allocation recommendations, which will be considered at the April 5
meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners. Wayne Laroche, Game
Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director, said that in addition
to harvest data, staff will be looking at deer health measures, forest
regeneration and deer-human conflicts for each WMU.
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