State’s 2018-19 deer harvest 2nd best of all time

DOVER — The total amount of deer “harvested” in Delaware’s 2018/19 hunting season, 14,883, is topped only by last season’s total of 15,304, according to DNREC.

Managers with the agency note that this season’s total would likely have been even higher were it not for inclement weather during the first few days of the November shotgun season.

The most popular portion of the hunting season by far, between 40 and 45 percent of the total harvest is typically taken during November with shotguns.

The two seasons account for the most deer harvested in the state since a hunting season was first instituted in 1954.

The banner season also marks the sixth year in a row that the state’s white-tailed deer harvest has exceeded 14,000 deer.

The highest 2018/19 season harvest occurred in Sussex County with a count of 7,735 deer, followed by Kent County with 4,299 deer taken and New Castle County with a harvest of 2,849 deer, note DNREC.

Due to a policy change last year, all Sundays during the various seasons were open to deer hunting to provide additional opportunities and to help manage the deer population, resulting in the harvest of 2,214 deer on these 23 Sundays from private lands and Division of Fish & Wildlife public wildlife areas.

According to Joe Rogerson, DNREC’s program manager for species conservation and research, steadily opening Sunday hunting availability has made a significant difference in the total harvest.
“This is our third year of Sunday hunting with the first year of having all Sundays in the seasons open — that helped a lot,” he said. “About seven years ago we also legalized the use of crossbows. That’s been growing in popularity among hunters. In fact, more deer are harvested now with crossbows than compound bows.

The programs we’ve instituted to assist farmer with crop damage hunting permits has also made a difference in recent years.”

Hunters harvested more female (doe) than male (buck) deer, consisting of 53.6 percent (7,982) does and 46.4 percent (6,901) bucks. High doe harvest percentages are an important tool for managing the size and quality of Delaware’s deer population, notes DNREC. Antlerless deer represented 69.7 percent of the total harvest.

Although their last official population count was nearly a decade ago, various metrics analyzed by the agency indicate that the state’s current deer population rests somewhere around 40,000, says Mr. Rogerson.

Consistently focusing on increasing the harvest, Mr. Rogerson says the state’s management has resulted in a “stabilized” population. The total harvest is a far cry from the first hunting season in the 50s when a total of 504 deer were taken.

For more information on deer hunting and management, visit dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting or contact the DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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