Sometimes a change in how data are collected can make it appear that a state had a better deer hunting season than it really did. Case in point: Louisiana.“In 2012 we changed our harvest survey to include senior hunters, so the number of deer that hunters reported they harvested increased,” explained Scott Durham, deer program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. “But we suspect that there was actually a slight drop in the overall harvest compared to 2011.” In total, 153,000 deer were taken last year, including a 227 6/8-inch non-typical monster killed by bow hunter Vicki Husted in the Tensas Parish. Extensive bottomland hardwoods and rich soils combine to give deer ample food that enable bucks to grow big racks. More and more hunters are discovering that the Bayou State is a hidden gem for trophy deer hunting.
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Iowa hunters put their tags on about 144,500 deer last fall, continuing a downward harvest trend in recent years. The deer population has been declining since 2006, with biologists working to return the population back to levels that existed in the mid-to-late 1990s. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates there are about 425,000 deer in the state this year. But another mild winter allowed deer to move around more, making it more difficult for researchers to conduct aerial surveys over areas where whitetails traditionally yard up.
“The deer populations in Northwestern and North-Central Iowa have been relatively stable in recent years, but these regions lack cover and overall deer densities are lower,” explained DNR deer project biologist Tom Litchfield. “For the remainder of the state, deer populations have been declining in recent years and most counties have reached population goals. Populations are strongest in northeastern Iowa, southern Iowa, and portions of western Iowa.”
Hoosier State hunters took a record number of deer in 2012 (136,248), including the most antlerless deer (90,312) in the state history. Tim Beck’s massive Indiana non-typical whitetail (305 7/8-inches) became the second-largest non-typical buck ever harvested by a hunter.
Like many other Midwestern states, Indiana whitetails were hit hard in 2012 by epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), wiping out herds in several contained areas. Nonetheless, another mild winter and good spring rainfall are helping deer numbers increase, prompting the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to increase antlerless quotas in many areas, and to enact new regulations.
Illinois hunters bagged 180,811 whitetails last fall, continuing an ongoing downward harvest trend in the Land of Lincoln since 2007. Last summer, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) killed whitetails throughout Illinois. Officials estimate over 3,000 deer in 87 counties succumbed to the disease.
Nonetheless, about 700,000 whitetails still call Illinois home, so hunters should have plenty of opportunity to fill their freezers in 2013.
“There are some West-Central and Southern counties that still have too many deer,” said Tom Micetich, deer project manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The state of Hawaii has both axis deer and blacktail deer. Axis deer can be found on Maui, Lana'i, and Moloka'i, while a small herd of blacktails live on Kaua’i. The Aloha State has 8,000 – 10,000 axis deer, but doesn’t estimate the blacktail population.
Blacktail hunting occurs on state managed lands and very few animals are harvested each year. Last year only four blacktails were taken. About 700 axis deer were killed on the three islands they inhabit.
Last year Georgia hunters harvested 385,410 whitetails, including a new typical archery state record (173 5/8-inches) and the new no. 3 non-typical firearm buck (234 6/8-inches). The state has about a million deer, and the ample rains that fell during the summer gave those deer plenty of good forage. This means hunters should see a lot of healthy deer this fall.
“Early season food will be abundant, which will likely decrease deer movement, but antler quality should be higher than average,” said Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “The mast crop doesn’t look good in Northern Georgia, but the lucky hunter who finds the acorns will find the deer.”
In the last century, whitetails have undergone significant changes in the Sunshine State. In the 1930s, there were only about 20,000 left due to widespread efforts to eliminate tick-borne diseases. Deer were the primary culprit responsible for passing on various diseases, and the population suffered mightily.
But the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC) has worked diligently to increase the population. Deer were purchased and relocated from several sources, including a game farm in Wisconsin.
Today the population is in good condition. While the GFC doesn’t estimate the number of deer the state has, hunters harvested 122,949 of them in 2012. This continued a recent downward harvest trend (138,000 deer in 2011), but nothing that should concern hunters.
Last year was a record deer season for many hunters in Delaware. Hunters in both New Castle and Kent Counties bagged the most deer ever recorded, and archery hunters statewide set an all-time record for harvested deer. In total, 13,302 whitetails were taken, and the 2013 season looks like it’s going to be another stellar year.
“Although some parts of the state were impacted by EHD [epizootic hemorrhagic disease] last year, the effects were local and not widespread,” said Joe Rogerson, deer and furbearer biologist for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Rainfall has been abundant, and approximately 50 percent of the state is comprised of corn and soybean agriculture, so antler development is expected to be above average this year.”
Last year was a memorable one for deer hunters in Connecticut, particularly those who sling arrows at whitetails.
“In 2012, 13,421 deer were harvested, which was the third highest harvest on record, and we had the highest archery harvest ever recorded,” said Andrew Labonte, a biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
A population estimate hasn’t been conducted since 2006, but state biologists know there are plenty of healthy deer. And a bright hunting outlook is on the horizon for this fall.