As a hunter, do you worry about what is going on in your neighborhood, county, city, state or for the country? I don’t know about you but I want to know what is going on all over the country because it is relative to the success of the conservation story in North America. I however can see how some can only get tangled up in what they see on their own property, in their little 100-1,000 yard area or even in their little farm town. Why worry about everything else?
Here is the scoop. Some hunters will say that their year was awful while others will say it was great. Some will say that all the large deer were shot and nobody is practicing QDMA while others might say that it is fantastic. Some hunters only care about shooting meat for the freezer and others want a GIANT!
No matter what you practice, there is great news from the Whitetail Report this year from the QDMA. If you haven’t read this before, it is a great resource about the practice of quality deer management and what occurred in the prior year in regards to harvest. You might have heard about this association before and if you have not, I will give you a one liner that will give you an idea what they are about. “Let them go so they can grow!”
QDMA is all about practicing the harvest of mature animals which would be considered 3 1/2 years old or older. This is mostly in regards to bucks since they can be scored and more accurately aged on the hoof than a doe. In this years report, for the first time ever, the majority of buck harvest was of 2 1/2 year old deer and for the first time ever there were more 3 1/2 year old deer harvested than yearling bucks! WOW! This is saying that more and more hunters are holding on to their arrows and not pulling the trigger on any and every deer that pops out in front of them. I know I held out this year as well and it caused me to not bring anything home but I didn’t worry about it one bit. My opinion is that if I just want meat, I can use my doe tag and if I do get lucky enough to strike a solid mature buck, then it is even more extra meat! It looks like others are thinking that way as well.
Here were the top 5 states that had an increase in certain deer harvests.
- Illinois (10% increase)
- Kentucky (New Record)
- Michigan (17% in lower peninsula)
- Nebraska (11% increase)
- Ohio (12% more deer checked in)
- West Virginia (77% increase in bucks taken)
On another note from the report, the overall deer harvest was down nationally which isn’t great news. The overall deer harvest dropped 4% and the antlerless deer harvest was down 11% nationally. There can be many factors that go into this, including diseases, predator control and also hunters not using every tag in their pocket. I am impressed with the detail of the report and all the factors that are thought about when it comes to the state of the whitetail deer. If you think about it, the Whitetail is a large majority of the hunting industry because of how many hunters thoroughly enjoy hunting this amazing animal. With the current information, we can all make better decisions in the woods and assist others in the woods as well to ensure the future of this animal is standing strong.
A couple of things that stand out to me are that certain states have different management practices or needs than others. Yes, every state wants to utilize it’s natural resources to assist with revenues but depending on how much urban sprawl there is or not, I believe that some states really are trying to lower deer populations. Take for example, my home state of Virginia. When I purchase a hunting license, I get 6 tags! I can either take 6 antlerless deer or I can take at least 3 bucks out of those 6 tags. If I was to hunt my hunting spots and take 6 does, I would cripple the amount of breeding on that land and it would impact the population for at least 2-3 years.
When you think of a state like Michigan, there are over 1 million hunting licenses sold which means that the state does not want to lower their deer herds. On the other hand, they have had some really rough winters, especially in the U.P. (upper peninsula) and the harvest of antlerless deer had to be shut down until the deer numbers came back up because of the bad winters that took place. As you can see, each state has different situations and different focus items that impact the local herds.
I would highly suggest everyone takes a read of this report and looks at the detailed information for the country and for their state. It is very informative and it might make you think about your hunt strategy for the coming year or years.
Here is the link for the Whitetail Report
Scout, Hunt, Repeat