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Record Harvest: Pennsylvania Hunters Take Over 430,000 Deer During the 2023-24 Seasons

Thayne Muthler

More deer were harvested by hunters during the 2023-24 seasons in Pennsylvania compared to the previous year.

On Tuesday, the state's Game Commission announced that during the five-month white-tailed deer seasons ending in January, hunters harvested 171,600 male deer with antlers and 258,410 without. This totals 430,410 deer, showing a 2% increase from the previous year's harvest of 422,960, and surpassing the average predicted harvest over the past three years by 4% (PennLive.com).

Record Harvest: Pennsylvania Hunters Take Over 430,000 Deer During the 2023-24 Seasons

However, it's important to note that these figures are estimates, as some hunters may not comply with the requirement to submit deer harvest reports.

The numbers reflect the effectiveness of the Game Commission's methods in managing deer populations and their habitats, which benefits both deer and hunters, according to Bryan Burhans, the head of the Game Commission.

For the 2022-23 season, it was anticipated that nearly 422,960 white-tailed deer would be harvested, with approximately 164,200 being males with antlers and about 258,770 without. This marked a 12% increase from the previous year's harvest.

Deer management is crucial due to their significant impact on local plant and animal populations through excessive vegetation consumption and rapid reproduction. Controlled hunting is the primary method used by the government in Pennsylvania to manage deer numbers.

Harvest predictions are based on reports from hunters and other data, such as deer counts conducted by Game Commission teams at processing sites, as explained by David Stainbrook, who manages deer and elk.

Last hunting season, hunters were permitted to obtain doe tags, required for hunting female deer without antlers, along with their regular hunting licenses. While many hunters acquired these tags, the number of does harvested did not exceed expectations. Consequently, the Game Commission has opted to increase the issuance of antlerless permits across different management areas.

Adult females comprised approximately 69% of the harvested deer, while button bucks (young males with small antler buds) accounted for about 16%, and fawn does made up roughly 14% of the total harvest.

The buck harvest for the 2023-24 season increased by 5% compared to the previous season and was 6% higher than the three-year average. Approximately 27% of deer hunters harvested a buck, slightly higher than the 26% success rate from the previous year and significantly more than the approximately 15% success rate during the 2007-08 period.

The majority of deer were harvested during the main firearms period, with approximately 254,710 deer taken by hunters using guns, while those using bows or crossbows harvested about 154,850.

Regulated bow and arrow hunting within Pittsburgh parks concluded in January, but specific harvest numbers for this period have not yet been released.