While Delaware does not perform deer population estimates annually, the evidence suggests that the deer herd has declined moderately.
“The total statewide post-hunting season deer population in 2005 was estimated at 37,563 deer, while in 2009 it was estimated at 31,071 deer, a 17.3% statewide reduction,” said Joe Rogerson, Deer and Furbearer Biologist for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife.
That drop in deer numbers is on purpose, Rogerson explains, as his Division’s goal has been to reduce the deer population due to agricultural and other social concerns such as crop damage, deer-vehicle collisions, and increases in reported cases of Lyme Disease. Additional antlerless hunting opportunities have helped keep deer numbers in check.
Delaware’s actually seen relatively little rainfall this year, which has likely hurt natural forage. But with so much of the state in agricultural production–especially winter wheat, corn and soybeans–deer have plenty of forage.
If you want to score a Delaware buck, the peak breeding period usually occurs November 10-20.
“So, the week prior to this would be the pre-rut and is usually the time of the year in which bucks are most active,” said Rogerson.
That would give archery deer hunters the best chance of taking a buck during the pre-rut, as the bow season is open then. Still, bucks are usually moving around pretty good during the statewide shotgun season, held November 9 to 17 this year.
Kent County has most entries into Delaware’s Deer Records program, which recognizes deer that score at least 140 inches. But Sussex County is a strong contender, too, with 14 of the top 30 entries for Typical Whitetails, in all-time rankings, all weapons included.
The Northeastern Regional Report**
_A very mild winter (which followed a generally mild winter in 2010-2011) and average-or-better amounts of spring and summer rain this year have the Northeast region looking good this fall. States like Vermont and Maine are expecting improved harvests, as the easy winters have allowed deer herds to rebound. Except for a small pocket of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Hampshire County, West Virginia, and a limited outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in west-central New Jersey, deer here have no real health issues.
While there are still many good-size deer in the Northeast, trophy antler production has eased away from here and moved into the Midwest region. The Boone and Crockett Club’s “Trophy Whitetail Production, 2005 to 2010,” for example, doesn’t list a single Northeastern state in the top 10. Pennsylvania, at number 20 (with 26 entries), is the highest-ranked state from this region.
That said, Northern states still grow big-bodied deer. “During the 2011 season, we had 124 bucks registered that, on the hoof, would have tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds,” says Vermont deer biologist Adam Murkowski._
Top Trophy Zones**
NY: Monroe, Wayne, and Suffolk counties. Comprising the eastern two-thirds of Long Island, Suffolk County produces approximately half the state’s Pope and Young records–including a 2006 buck that netted 196 2⁄8 non-typical.
NJ: Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Salem counties.
PA: Alleghany, Chester, Washington, and Beaver counties.
WV: McDowell and Wyoming counties.