Game Commission: PA Hunters Harvested Fewer Deer in 2014-2015

gamecomissionHARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Game Commission today reported that, in the state’s 2014-15 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 303,973 deer – a decrease of about 14 percent compared to the 2013-14 harvest of 352,920.

Hunters took 119,260 antlered deer in the 2014-15 seasons – a decrease of about 11 percent compared to the previous license year, when an estimated 134,280 bucks were taken. Also, hunters harvested an estimated 184,713 antlerless deer in 2014-15, which represents an about 16 percent decrease compared to the 218,640 antlerless deer taken in 2013-14.

“We put these numbers out each year and, whether there’s an increase or decrease in the harvest, people want to know why,” said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “While it’s impossible to provide explanations with certainty, there were a couple of factors over the 2014-15 deer seasons that seem to have contributed to a decreased harvest.”

Some of the decrease is by design, Hough said.

The Game Commission last year reduced the number of antlerless licenses available for sale. Fewer licenses were allocated in nearly every Wildlife Management Unit, and statewide, 59,500 fewer antlerless licenses were issued.

Reducing the allocation within a Wildlife Management Unit allows deer numbers to grow there. Records show it takes an allocation of about four antlerless licenses to harvest one antlerless deer, so a reduced antlerless harvest was anticipated due to a reduced allocation.

Additionally, the weather during the two-week firearms deer season was less than ideal in much of the state. Some parts of the state saw unusually high temperatures on the season’s opening day. And depending on where you hunted, conditions on the first Saturday might have included steady rain, snow or dense fog.

“When the weather is warmer, hunters tend to sit tight longer, and the deer tend to move less, as well,” said David Putnam, the president of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners. “Meanwhile, adverse weather can be just about unhuntable and the deer seek cover, too, which decreases hunter success rates.”

Pennsylvania’s reduced harvest corresponds also with harvest decreases within neighboring states this past season. Research shows that when mast crops like acorns are especially abundant, as was the case in many parts of Pennsylvania this past season, deer harvests tend to drop because deer don’t have to move far to get food.

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 2014-15 the rate at which successful hunters reported their harvests increased slightly.

The 2014-15 harvest contained its highest percentage of adult bucks in decades. Of the antlered deer taken, 43 percent were 1½-year-old bucks, with the remaining 57 percent being 2½ years old or older.

The antlerless harvest included about 61 percent adult females, about 20 percent button bucks and about 18 percent doe fawns. The rates are similar to long-term averages.

The antlerless success rate remained about 25 percent for the licenses issued.

Agency staff currently is working to develop 2015-16 antlerless deer license allocation recommendations, which will be voted on at the April 10 meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners. John Dunn, interim 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.

For additional information on Pennsylvania’s 2014-15 deer harvest, please go to the agency’s website – – and click on “White-Tailed Deer” on the homepage, and then select 2014-15 Deer Harvest Estimates under “Deer Management.”

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