Hunters harvested an estimated 315,813 deer in Pennsylvania–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 about a 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 2 1/2 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 2 1/2 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.