QDMA 2020 Whitetail Report: record-low yearling buck harvest
ATHENS, Ga. — The Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) released its 12th annual Whitetail Report, a comprehensive update on the status of white-tailed deer including deer harvest trends through the 2018-19 season, the most recent hunting season with complete deer harvest data available from most whitetail states and Canadian provinces. That season, the national percentage of yearling bucks (1½ years old) in the total antlered buck harvest fell to 30%, the lowest ever recorded.
“The fact that less than one in three antlered bucks shot today is 1½ years old is amazing,” said Kip Adams, QDMA Director of Conservation. “The result is that deer populations are more socially balanced, and of course hunters are seeing and harvesting more adult bucks. The average percentage of the buck harvest that was 3½ years old or older was 37% in 2018, which is by far the highest percentage ever reported.”
While the overall national buck harvest of 2,908,155 in 2018 was slightly down, it was within 2% of the total in 2017, which was the highest national buck harvest in nearly two decades and close to the modern record buck harvest of 3.1 million set in 1999.
Meanwhile, the national antlerless deer harvest was lower than the buck harvest for the second year in a row, at 2,881,168. Modern antlerless harvests first surpassed the buck harvest in the 1999 season and remained higher for 17 consecutive seasons until 2017.
“Reduced antlerless harvests are necessary in areas where deer herds have been balanced with the habitat and when other mortality factors, such as predation or disease, are increasing,” said Adams. “However, few states should be harvesting more antlered bucks than antlerless deer on a regular basis.”
Among other facts to be found in the new Whitetail Report:
- 66 percent of deer taken in the 2018-19 season were killed with a firearm compared to 23 percent with a bow and 10 percent with a muzzleloader.
- Hunting-related fatalities were down from 68 nationally in 2008 to 55 in 2018 — less than 1 in 100,000 deer hunters.
- Texas had the highest total buck harvest at 508,000.
- Michigan killed the most bucks per square mile, at 3.7.
- South Carolina killed the most bucks per 100 deer hunters, at 79.
Complete state-by-state estimates of total buck harvest, buck age structure, and many other harvest parameters are available in the full Whitetail Report, which also includes a look at numerous other critical issues for whitetails and deer hunters.
QDMA’s 2020 Whitetail Report is available for download free here.