Pa. Game Commission reports increase in deer harvest


Pennsylvania’s deer harvest was up during the 2016-17 seasons.

The buck harvest increased 9 percent, and the overall deer harvest was up 6 percent, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reported Monday.

Pennsylvania hunters will not be allowed to use semiautomatic rifles to hunt big game, such as the buck pictured above.

Hunters harvested an estimated 333,254 deer in 2016-17 — an increase of about 6 percent compared to the 2015-16 harvest of 315,813.

Of those, 149,460 were antlered deer — an increase of about 9 percent compared to the previous license year, when an estimated 137,580 bucks were taken. It’s the largest harvest of antlered deer since 2002.

Hunters also harvested an estimated 183,794 antlerless deer in 2016-17, which represents an about 3 percent increase compared to the 178,233 antlerless deer taken in 2015-16.

Bowhunters accounted for nearly 33 percent of the overall deer harvest, taking 109,250 deer (59,550 bucks and 49,700 does) with archery tackle. Meanwhile, 20,409 deer (1,350 bucks and 19,059 does) were harvested during muzzleloader seasons.

The percentage of older bucks in the harvest remained high, with 56 percent of bucks taken by Pennsylvania hunters during the 2016-17 deer seasons being 2½ years old or older. In 2015-16, 59 percent of bucks in the harvest were 2½ years old or older.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough congratulated deer hunters on their successes afield during the 2016-17 seasons.

“This has been quite a year for Pennsylvania deer hunting,” Hough said in a news release. “Not only was there an increased deer harvest and a significantly higher buck harvest, I saw hundreds of photos from hunters who took their buck-of-a-lifetime this past season. Among them was a hunter whose Clearfield County harvest shattered the state record for nontypical bucks taken with archery tackle.

“To all of those hunters, and to everybody who made memories afield during the 2016-17 deer seasons, congratulations. I couldn’t be happier for you and wish you the best of luck in the 2017-18 seasons, when hundreds more bucks-of-a-lifetime will be taken.”

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.

The antlerless harvest included about 64 percent adult females, about 20 percent button bucks and about 16 percent doe fawns. The rates are similar to long-term averages.

Agency staff currently is working to develop 2017-18 antlerless deer license allocation recommendations, which will be considered at the March 28 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 as antlerless allocations are considered for 2017-18.