Tuesday, March 15, 2016

2015/16 Deer Harvest Estimates Released by PA Game Commission

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.

Game 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.”

The 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 2015-16.

Harvest 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.

Agency 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.

To read the full news release click here

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