The Game Commission Monday reported hunters harvested an estimated 315,813 deer – an increase of about 4 percent compared to the 2014-15 harvest of 303,973.
Of those, 137,580 were antlered deer – an increase of about 15 percent compared to the previous license year, when an estimated 119,260 bucks were taken.
Hunters also harvested an estimated 178,233 antlerless deer in 2015-16, which represents an about 4 percent decrease compared to the 184,713 antlerless deer taken in 2014-15.
The percentage of older bucks in the harvest might well be the most eye-popping number in the report.
A whopping 59 percent of whitetail bucks taken by Pennsylvania hunters during the 2015-16 deer seasons were 2½ years old or older, making for the highest percentage of adult bucks in the harvest in decades.
Game Commission Wildlife Management Director Wayne Laroche pointed out the trend of more adult bucks in the harvest started when antler restrictions were put into place. More yearling bucks are making it through the first hunting season through which they carry a rack. Season after season, a greater proportion of the annual buck harvest has been made of adult bucks.
In 2014-15, 57 percent of the bucks taken by hunters were 2½ or older.
“But to see that number now at nearly 60 percent is remarkable,” Laroche said. “It goes to show what antler restrictions have accomplished – they’ve created a Pennsylvania where every deer hunter in the woods has a real chance of taking the buck of a lifetime.”
While the 137,580 bucks taken in 2015-16 is a sharp increase over 2014-15, it compares to a 2013-14 estimate of 134,280 bucks. In 2014-15, a number of factors including poor weather on key hunting days and limited deer movements due to exceptionally abundant mast contributed to a reduced deer harvest overall.
The decrease in the 2015-16 antlerless harvest was a predictable outcome, given that 33,000 fewer antlerless licenses were allocated statewide in 2015-16, compared to the previous year.
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, and the success rate for antlerless-deer hunters again was consistent at about 25 percent in 2015-16.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough congratulated deer hunters on their successes afield during the 2015-16 seasons.
“While the Game Commission again reduced the number of antlerless licenses that were allocated in 2015-16, and the antlerless harvest dropped accordingly, as expected, the overall increase in the harvest – and, in particular, the buck harvest – show this was another outstanding deer season in Pennsylvania,” Hough said. “The pictures I’ve seen of trophy bucks this season came from all over the Commonwealth – including the big woods of the northcentral – and they were jaw-dropping and impressive. And the best news is there are plenty of new memories waiting to be made when deer hunters get back out there in the coming license year.”
Click Here to read the full announcement.For more information, visit the Game Commission’s White-Tailed Deer webpage.