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Pennsylvania Game Commission says 2020-21 deer harvest surpassed previous year by 12%

The (Greensburg) Tribune Review (TNS)
Pennsylvania hunters killed an estimated 435,180 deer during the 2020-21 hunting seasons, the state Game Commission announced Friday.

Pennsylvania hunters killed an estimated 435,180 deer during the 2020-21 hunting seasons, the state Game Commission announced Friday.

That topped the previous license year's harvest of 389,431 by about 12%, the agency reported.

In the past 21 years, since 1993, the state's hunters have harvested more than 400,000 deer in a license year just 10 times. Twice during that period, deer harvests exceeded 500,000, first in 2000 and again in 2002, when the state's overall deer harvest record of 517,529 was set, according to the agency.

The statewide buck harvest of 174,780 last season set a new record for bucks killed in the antler-restrictions era. The buck harvest also increased 7% over the previous license year's buck harvest of 163,240.

"About a quarter of the state's deer hunters took a buck in the 2020-21 deer seasons," said David Stainbrook, the Game Commission's deer and elk section supervisor.

"It's a trend that hunters have maintained over the past three license years. The fact that we can maintain such high success rates on bucks year after year demonstrates the sustainability of the deer population in Pennsylvania," he said.

In 2018-2019, 147,750 bucks were harvested.

The antlerless deer harvest for the 2020-21 seasons was 260,400. It exceeded the 2019-20 antlerless deer harvest of 226,191 by 15%.

The 2018-19 harvest was 226,940.

The last time the antlerless deer harvest exceeded the 2020-21 season was in the 2004-05 license year, when 284,910 antlerless deer were taken, according to commission records.

CWD efforts: In the 2020-21 deer seasons, the commission set the antlerless allocations at levels to reduce the deer population in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been documented as part of its ongoing effort to limit the spread of the disease.

The Game Commission said the antlerless harvest increased in those WMUs as intended.

"Obtaining an adequate deer harvest is essential in the WMUs and in the state's Disease Management Areas (DMAs)," said Andrea Korman, CWD biologist.

"Deer hunters remain the first line of defense in Pennsylvania's continuing efforts to manage CWD. The harvest illustrates the cooperation we hoped hunters would provide to help where CWD threats are at their greatest in Penn's Woods," Korman said.

Unlike in 2019-20, when antlerless harvests decreased in almost half of the state's WMUs, in 2020-21, antlerless harvests either increased or were similar to the previous year in all but one WMU — 3B. That area includes portions of Bradford, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Lycoming, Sullivan, Tioga and Wyoming counties.

The Game Commission reported the decrease in that area was expected as the allocation was reduced in 2020-21.

WMUs with largest harvests: WMUs posting the largest antlerless deer harvest increases were the western Pennsylvania WMUs of 1A, which covers parts of covers part of Crawford County, all of Mercer and Lawrence counties and parts of Venango, Butler and Beaver counties; 1B, which covers all of Erie, most of Crawford and some of Warren and Venango counties, and in 2B, which includes parts of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

In WMUs 1A and 1B, the antlered harvest increased substantially as well, the commission reported.

The largest increases in antlered deer harvest were in WMU 1A and WMU 1B, where the buck harvest increased by about 3,000 deer in each WMU.

More older bucks taken: The percentage of older bucks in the 2020-21 deer harvest remained high. About 64% of the bucks taken by hunters were at least 2 1/2 years old and the rest were about 1 1/2 years old.

"The commonwealth's antler restrictions have succeeded in providing more older bucks for Pennsylvania's deer hunters," said state Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. "In place since 2002, they have transformed the smaller bucks that once dominated our deer harvests into a buck population that is the envy of deer hunters everywhere."

"Anyone who hunted deer before antler restrictions can see the results. But it's important to recognize that these bucks are a product of a well-managed deer herd and their existence hinged on the willingness of deer hunters to support antler restrictions," he said.

About 68% of the antlerless deer harvest was adult females; button bucks comprised 17% and doe fawns made up 15%. The previous license year's breakdown was similar, according to the agency.

Bowhunters and muzzleloaders: Bowhunters accounted for over a third of Pennsylvania's 2020-21 overall deer harvest, taking 160,480 deer, which includes 80,130 bucks and 80,350 antlerless deer. The 2019-20 archery harvest was 145,908, which included 74,190 bucks and 71,718 antlerless deer.

The estimated muzzleloader harvest of 28,270 was down slightly from the previous year's harvest of 29,604. The 2020-21 muzzleloader harvest included 1,140 antlered bucks compared to 1,260 bucks in 2019-20.

More details of the report are available at www.pgc.pa.gov.