A Department of Natural Resources biologist says the deer harvest numbers are down for this year, but the state is on track for its population goals. Preliminary totals show hunters took 136,504 deer, or just about 5,700 below last year.
State deer biologist, Tom Litchfield, says the herd numbers are down enough that he anticipates they will soon start to cut the number of licenses issued.
Litchfield says he anticipates the November anterless season will be a thing of the past within two more years. He says the January anterless season will also probably be changed in that same time period, although he can’t say if it will go away entirely. The state has issued the anterless licenses to help cut the herd, and he says that strategy appears to be working.
He says there harvest showed 52-percent of the deer taken were does, and enough deer were taken in the areas of the state where they needed to meet their population goals. The weather wasn’t the best during the season, but Litchfield does not think that had a major impact on the numbers.
He says the weather did impact the harvest in some areas, but he says there are also fewer deer in some areas of the state, and that’s why numbers were down. Litchfield said it is important that they review how each season went, as once a deer herd starts to decline, care needs to be taken because that can get out of hand.
Litchfield says the changes are like turning a big boat around slowly. He says when the initially started increasing the number of does taken to decrease the herd, the deer herd had built up big numbers and had quite a bit of “reproductive momentum.” Litchfield says it took about three years to turn around that momentum. Litchfield says they will use aerial surveys, road kill data and the spring spotlight surveys to get an idea of the deer numbers and where they need to go in the future.