In its excellent 2022 Deer Report, the National Deer Association (NDA) states that hunters in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast combined to shoot more than 3.2 million antlerless deer during the 2020-21 season, the last season for which comprehensive records are available. This marks the first time America’s antlerless kill, which includes both does and buck fawns shot by mistake, has topped 3 million since 2013.
Further, in 2020-21 hunters shot more antlerless deer than antlered bucks for the first time since 2017, and reversed a significant national trend that experienced a 20% reduction in doe harvest between 2007 and 2019.
The top 3 states for doe harvest are Texas (402,515 animals), Pennsylvania (260,400) and Michigan (191,252).
Pennsylvania hunters killed the most does per square mile (5.8), followed by Delaware and Maryland (5.1 each).
Across America the antlerless harvest has increased 12% from 2019. Regionally, the doe kill was up 11% in the Southeast, 12% in the Midwest 15% in the Northeast (15%). In total, 31 of 37 states shot more antlerless deer in 2020-21 than the prior year.
The NDA points out the 350,000 additional doe kills in 2020-21 provided an additional 70 million venison meals. In the last 2 pandemic years, the sale of hunting licenses increased by about 5% in the U.S. One theory is that these new hunters, most of them out for organic meat, helped to increase the antlerless harvest.
Seven of 13 Midwest states shot more antlerless deer than bucks, 7 of 13 Northeastern states shot more does, and five of 11 Southeastern states shot more antlerless deer in 2020-21.
Summing up this harvest data and looking to the future of deer management in America, the NDA states that reduced antlerless harvests are necessary in areas where deer herds have been balanced with the habitat and/or when other mortality factors, such as predation or disease, are increasing. However, very few states should be harvesting more antlered bucks than antlerless deer on a regular basis.