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Instability seems to be everywhere nowadays, whether it involves politics, weather, or the dreaded pandemic. But one annual constant offers the hope of brighter days: deer season.

Within a few weeks, hunters across the country will welcome the promise of crisp autumn mornings and thrilling encounters with spectacular bucks. And whether you’re in the big woods of the Northeast, the open vistas of the West, the piney woods of the Deep South or the fields and woodlots of the Midwest, the appeal never wavers.

Of course, not every deer season is the same. Drought, harsh winter weather, and crop conditions can all impact your deer hunt. In that spirit, here’s a state-by-state deer hunting forecast for the 2021 deer season.

Alabama

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: About 1.25 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 195,138 registered via Game Check; total estimated harvest not yet available.

Overall outlook: “Everything looks good for the 2021-’22 deer season,” says Chris Cook, deer program coordinator for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Deer are abundant across the entire state, and age structure of the annual buck harvest seems to be increasing over the last several years.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Cook said hunting is good throughout Alabama, but deer numbers seem to be increasing in the northwestern and southernmost counties.

Quick tip: Cook urged hunters to look at Alabama’s Deer Rut Map at outdooralabama.com to plan hunting efforts at wildlife management areas or other properties.

Season dates/bag limits: OutdoorAlabama.com

Alaska

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Outdoor Life editor-in-chief Alex Robinson with a blacktail buck in Alaska.

Species: Sitka blacktail deer; some mule deer have been sighted from the eastern interior to northern southeastern Alaska.

Estimated population: Not available. Blacktail populations fluctuate considerably based on winter severity.

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 17,566 (2019 harvest)

Overall outlook: “Our deer pellet indices suggest that the population is at moderate-high levels,” says Charlotte Westing, Prince William Sound area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “The last two winters were a return to ‘normal’ after almost 10 years of mild, low-snow conditions. While some winter kill undoubtedly occurred, there are no signs of a major population impact.”

However, Kodiak Island experienced a relatively harsh winter in 2019, which significantly affected the blacktail population there.

“We estimate a 60 to 70 percent reduction in the population in some of the harder hit areas of the island, particularly the eastern side of the island and some areas on the southern end, as well as many areas on Afognak Island,” says Nathan Svoboda, area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Kodiak Island. “However, last winter (2020) was less impactful than the previous year. The good news is the deer population on Kodiak recovers fairly quickly. Typically, it seems to take about two to three years for the population to recover, and this year it looks like deer numbers are looking pretty good in most areas. The deer population on the road system is still slowly recovering and isn’t quite as robust as it was pre-2019 winter.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Westing said the agency surveyed almost all areas in Prince William Sound during 2021 and did not see signs of a major deer population decline.

“The deer population in many areas of (Kodiak Island) — not on the Kodiak road system — appear to have recovered fairly well following the winter of 2019 and appear to have a fairly robust population. The Kodiak road system and some areas on the eastern side of the island still have reduced numbers and continue to recover.”

Quick tip: “Participation in hunting has been higher since 2020, so traveling farther from port will probably be necessary to avoid sharing a hunting area,” Westing said. “Early-season hunting should focus on the high alpine, so be ready to lace ’em up.”

Season dates/bag limits: ADFG.Alaska.gov

Arizona

Species: Mule deer and Coues whitetail deer

Estimated population: 85,000 Coues deer, 105,000 mule deer

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 10,295 mule deer, 10,376 whitetails

Overall outlook: Dustin Darveau, terrestrial wildlife specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Game Program, says most of Arizona is still experiencing severe drought conditions, so fawn recruitment and general overall nutrition have decreased the past several years. Below-average precipitation through much of the state in 2020 triggered permit reductions in several game management units. Increases in fawn and buck trends resulting from 2021 rainfall won’t be noticeable for the next two years. Several game management units have experienced large-scale wildfires the past several years, some of which will benefit wildlife as the vegetation recovers. Other areas, however, experienced high burn severity and will take much longer to recover.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “The northern and eastern regions of the state have remained fairly stable, while the central and western portions of the state have been influenced significantly by the long-term drought in many areas,” Darveau says.

Quick tip: “With low densities of deer throughout much of the state, one of the most important skills to hunt deer in Arizona is to develop solid glassing skills with the best optics one can afford,” Darveau says. “Understanding the habitat needs for the species of interest is also highly beneficial.”

Season dates/bag limits: azgfd.com/hunting/regulations

Arkansas

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 900,000 to 1 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 216,835

Overall outlook: “Population trends in most of Arkansas are considered stable, although some areas along major river systems may be considered in rebound mode following several years of prolonged flooding events,” says Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

Meeker noted that bucks 3.5 years old or older comprised about 71 percent of the 2020 harvest, compared to about 67 percent in 2019.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Meeker says several areas of the state saw dramatic harvest increases in 2020.

Quick tip: “With an increase in the demand for outdoor equipment, ammunition and meat processing services, an increase in the number of hunters in the woods, and a limited amount of area to hunt, start to prepare for your season now,” Meeker says.

Season dates/bag limits: agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer

California

Species: Mule deer and Columbian blacktail deer (northern coastal region)

Estimated population: 460,420 (mule deer and blacktails)

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 26,325 mule deer

Overall outlook: Julie Garcia, deer program coordinator for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that although California deer herds experience annual increases and declines across the state, the overall population trends remain stable.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “The 2021 season is going to be a challenge for hunters with the ongoing drought conditions and current and expected future wildfires in many of the premium zones,” says Garcia.

Quick tip: Garcia says hunters should be flexible when considering spots this year. Visit the U.S. Forest Service website for wildfire and forest closures in hunting areas (fs.usda.gov).

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Deer

Colorado

coloradowhitetailbuck
Shooting Editor John B. Snow with a Colorado whitetail buck. John B. Snow

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: About 427,570

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: Estimated 38,899

Overall outlook: Bradley Gabrielski, Colorado Parks and Wildlife communications center wildlife coordinator, says deer populations have increased statewide. Currently, 52 percent of Colorado’s data analysis units are above population objectives. Nineteen DAUs are within population objectives, and 30 percent are below objectives. The state increased deer licenses by 1,100 for 2021.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Colorado is one of the premier deer hunting destinations in the western United States,” says Gabrielski. “This year, the eastern part of the continental divide has provided much-needed moisture to Colorado. This additional moisture has provided plentiful habitat for our deer populations. Deer hunting east of the continental divide will offer great hunting opportunities for hunters at varying elevations. We are anticipating higher success rates in the later seasons based on our new five-year season structure. In addition, we are also increasing buck licenses in the Gunnison basin and the Grand Mesa area.”

Quick tip: “Know the signs of altitude sickness, and be prepared to retreat to a lower elevation right away,” says Gabrielski. “If your situation is more severe, seek medical attention right away.”

Season dates/bag limits: cpw.state.co.us

Connecticut

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 10,881

Overall outlook: Deer numbers appear to be relatively stable across the state.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Because many (refuges) exist throughout the state, older bucks can be found almost anywhere, but southwestern Connecticut is probably the best area to find older bucks (more land closed to hunting),” says Howard Kilpatrick, supervising wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Quick tip: Kilpatrick said that hunters should focus on forested areas during years with good acorn crops but hunt green fields and near residential areas in years with poor acorn production.

Season dates/bag limits: portal.ct.gov/DEEP/Hunting/2021-Connecticut-Hunting-and-Trapping-Guide/Deer-Hunting

Delaware

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 17,265

Overall outlook: Delaware features a thriving deer herd and offers one of the country’s longest archery seasons (five months).

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: In 2020, the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife says whitetail densities are highest in Delaware’s northernmost county, New Castle. However, access can be difficult. Sussex County, in the southern part of the state, is more rural, with woodlots and agricultural fields.

Quick tip: Delaware is divided into 18 wildlife management zones, each with many public hunting opportunities. According to the state Division of Fish and Wildlife website, the number of quality bucks harvested per square mile in Delaware is comparable to the Midwest and other well-known areas.

Season dates/bag limits: dnrec.alpha.delaware.gov/fish-wildlife/hunting/seasons

Florida

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Not available

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 66,921

Overall outlook: Cory Morea, deer management program coordinator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, saYS the statewide deer population is stable despite some fluctuations at local levels. Antler-point restrictions initiated in 2014 and 2015 have resulted in a 23 percent decrease in the harvest of 1.5-year-old bucks.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Areas in northern and central Florida tend to contain higher-quality habitat to support deer growth and reproduction,” says Morea. “However, deer with larger antlers can be found in most areas of the state.”

Also, Morea said hunters can find information on buck scores based on the county in which they were harvested at FWC’s buck registry interactive map: ocean.floridamarine.org/FLBuckRegistry.

Further, Morea said, the state added two new areas to its 6-million-acre WMA system: Orange Hammock WMA, a 5,777-acre property in Sarasota County, and Everglades Headwaters WMA, Kissimmee Bend Unit, a 5,305-acre area in Okeechobee County. Both provide new quota permit deer hunting opportunities — in addition to turkey and small-game hunting — in southern Florida counties that currently have no public hunting options.

Quick tip: Morea said hunters seeking public opportunities can use the FWC’s WMA Finder to search for wildlife management areas by location, season, species and type of hunt (youth, family or mobility-impaired).

Season dates/bag limits: myfwc.com/hunting/season-dates

Georgia

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Zac Peters with a 13-point Georgia buck.

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: Unavailable

Overall outlook: Georgia’s deer herd is healthy and stable across much of the state. The buck age structure is good.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Counties east of Atlanta typically have the highest harvests, including some good bucks. Deer populations in mountain counties, especially on U.S. Forest Service land, are lower than desired densities.

Quick tip: Check out the state’s online map to find the peak rutting times by county: georgiawildlife.com/rut-map.

Season dates/bag limits: georgiawildlife.com/sites/default/files/wrd/pdf/regulations/SeasonDates.pdf

Idaho

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 250,000 to 360,000 mule deer; no estimate for whitetails

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 24,809 mule deer, 24,849 whitetails

Overall outlook: Rick Ward, deer and elk coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, says the statewide mule deer outlook is fair to good — and improving — depending on the area.

“Overwinter survival of radio-collared mule deer fawns was above the long-term average for the last two winters, thanks to mild conditions,” he said. “That means more yearling bucks available to hunters in the fall. Idaho also saw areas of very high fawn production last year, as indicated by December herd composition surveys. Some areas had more than 90 fawns per 100 does — well above the long-term average. However, mule deer populations in eastern and west-central Idaho have not fully recovered to 2016 levels after the extreme winter of 2016-2017.”

Meanwhile, Ward says a mild 2020-’21 winter in northern Idaho, where most of the state’s whitetails live, bodes well for survival and hunting opportunity this fall.

“Whitetail harvest hit an all-time high in 2015, indicative of a growing deer population,” he adds. “Harvest since then has been steady but slightly below the high-water mark in 2015, with harvest averaging about 82 percent of the 2015 number over the last five years.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Ward says whitetail buck hunters in northern Idaho have seen very good success rates — about 45 to 50 percent the past several years — and there’s no reason to think 2021 will be different. Conversely, some mule deer populations in southern Idaho have yet to recover from heavy snowfalls in 2016-’17, and hunter success in those areas has been mediocre. The west-central area of the state (game management units 22, 23, 24, 31, 32 and 32A) has seen a slower rate of recovery than eastern Idaho.

Quick tip: “You can’t start scouting too early,” Ward says. “Mule deer bucks will likely be on summer range for much of the rifle season unless we get early snow, and whitetails aren’t heavy migrators, so patterning deer in late summer can be very helpful when hunting seasons roll around.”

Season dates/bag limits: idfg.idaho.gov/hunt/deer

Illinois

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Don Higgens with a fantastic Illinois whitetail.

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Not available; stable to increasing the past five years

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 162,752

Overall outlook: “The 2021-’22 Illinois deer season is shaping up to be another strong year, with 108 total days of deer hunting opportunity,” says Peter Schlichting, deer project manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “Weather conditions are looking good, with an average to moderate winter and ample rainfall this spring for the majority of the state. There have been very few confirmed cases of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in recent years, and we do not expect major die-off events this year. However, drought conditions after a wet summer could exacerbate this. Barring fall weather events that delay harvest, the majority of crops are on track to be harvested by the first firearms season. The rut, which typically peaks around Nov. 14, will primarily fall during archery season, but firearm hunters can expect rutting behavior to still be occurring during the first firearm season (Nov. 19 through 21).

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Schlichting says most areas of the state have great potential for 2021, with local abundance and quality dependent on property-level management practices. As of early August, northern Illinois was experiencing moderate drought, which could influence deer productivity.

Quick tip: Schlichting encouraged hunters to report sick or dead deer to the DNR at deer.wildlifeillinois.org/reports/new.

Season dates/bag limits: www2.illinois.gov/dnr/hunting/Pages/DeerHunting.aspx

Indiana

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Not available

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 124,180

Overall outlook: Moriah Boggess, deer biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, says the upcoming season looks good. The state has received very few reports of suspected EHD in deer, and there hasn’t been a significant EHD outbreak since 2019. That means local deer populations are steady or increasing in most areas of the state, along with the age class of bucks.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Our most northern counties have been experiencing upward trends in harvest and other population indices over the last several years,” says Boggess. “As this trend continues, these counties are seeing better deer hunting annually, and there are quality bucks being produced every year. Southern counties have nearly recovered from the 2019 EHD outbreak, and the outlook on deer numbers and quality looks excellent.”

Quick tip: “Continually scout throughout the season to keep tabs on deer patterns, as they change food sources often, and plan each hunt to set you up close to the most recent fresh deer sign,” says Boggess.

Season dates/bag limits: in.gov/dnr/fish-and-wildlife/wildlife-resources/animals/white-tailed-deer

Iowa

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Brooklynne Rude’s huge Iowa buck green-scored an incredible 215 inches.

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Not available

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 109,549

Overall outlook: “Our statewide population trend has been stable to slightly increasing and at goal level since 2013,” says Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician and deer program leader for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “While we don’t have a formal survey for tracking production annually, field reports I’ve received this summer indicate that it was a good year for production. These two factors combined suggest that 2021 should be another good hunting season for Iowans.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Harms says biologists continue to see increasing populations in the northwestern quarter of Iowa, which has been below goal level for several years. The state had restricted harvest to bucks only during the early muzzleloader and first shotgun seasons in that area. This year, however, as populations recover, it has allowed antlerless harvest to resume during the early muzzleloader season in all northwestern Iowa counties and is slowly allowing antlerless harvest in some counties during the first shotgun season.

Quick tip: Harms encouraged hunters to check Iowa’s online public hunting atlas, which shows the location and information about public properties across the state. He also said they should look into the newly launched Iowa Deer Exchange Program, which connects hunters with people seeking venison.

Season dates/bag limits: iowadnr.gov/Hunting/Deer-Hunting

Kansas

Species: Whitetail (statewide) and mule deer (western half)

Estimated population: 685,000 whitetails, 53,000 mule deer

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 80,001 whitetails, 1,772 mule deer

Overall outlook: Levi Jaster, big-game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, says deer populations are growing in eastern Kansas but trending down and coming back near long-term averages in the western part of the state.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “The northwestern (deer management units) are coming down from population highs, which will mean hunters will see fewer deer than they had been over the last few seasons, and CWD will continue to be an issue in the northwest, as it has for the last several years,” says Jaster. “The southeastern DMUs still have a growing population, as they had over the last few years, and likely need increased antlerless deer harvest to bring the population, sex and age ratios back in line to maintain quality hunting.”

Quick tip: “Hunters should strongly consider getting their deer tested for CWD,” says Jaster. “Several new counties had first detections in the 2020-’21 seasons, including some in eastern Kansas. Know the transport laws regarding deer carcasses in your home state and the states you travel through.”

Season dates/bag limits: ksoutdoors.com/Hunting/Big-Game-Information/Deer

Kentucky

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Brian Davenport with a 203-inch Kentucky buck.

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 141,620

Overall outlook: “Kentucky’s deer population is looking great for the upcoming season,” says Kyle Sams, deer and elk program biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The 2020-’21 season was the fifth-highest harvest total on record (141,620), with population models indicating a stable to increasing statewide population. Hunters in Kentucky do a fantastic job of letting younger bucks walk, and because Kentucky is a one-buck state, its age class among bucks is very good. Most who hunt Kentucky and put the time in can usually come out of the woods with a quality buck.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Sams says every region of the state has the potential to produce big bucks. Eastern Kentucky is rebounding from a 2017 hemorrhagic disease outbreak. The Bluegrass Region, in the central and northern part of the state, has the most deer and the highest harvest rates. The Green River and Purchase regions, in western Kentucky, are also very productive.

Quick tip: “Most folks can’t wait to get into the woods to hunt,” says Sams. “Get a jump on that feeling and start scouting now to find those key areas that deer will likely move through. The more you know about the area that you hunt, the more likely you are to be successful.”

Season dates/bag limits: fw.ky.gov/Hunt/Pages/Deer.aspx

Louisiana

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: A minimum of 500,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: About 192,000

Overall outlook: Johnathan Bordelon, deer program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, says prospects for the upcoming season look good.

“As always, habitat and environmental conditions will influence relative abundance and trends for individual properties,” he said. “However, the outlook for 2021 should provide an opportunity for harvest numbers comparable to last season.”

Bordelon says data collected from more than 1 million acres of properties enrolled in the state’s Deer Management Assistance Program reveal a continued trend of older age harvest. Year-and-a-half-old bucks comprised less than 10 percent of the antlered buck harvest in 2020, a new low. Also, about 50 percent of the antlered buck harvest at DMAP properties consisted of 4.5-year-old and older bucks.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Bordelon says the bottomland hardwood areas of the state show promise since recovering from prolonged late-summer flooding in 2019. Harvest and lactation rates were up in that habitat type. However, prospects for southwestern Louisiana’s coastal marshes were down, as those areas were battered and habitat was altered from a storm surge in 2020.

“Five named tropical systems made landfall in Louisiana, with the southwestern marshes taking the brunt of the damage,” he said. “These areas were already low harvest areas, and the recent storms will likely do little to enhance harvest opportunities. However, the forested habitat north of the marshes should see an increase in deer numbers in the short term. Increased sunlight to the forest floor will promote the growth of forest plants, which deer rely on for forage and cover. In addition, tougher access and increased cover will create challenges for hunters while providing escape cover for deer. This could potentially lead to increased recruitment into older age classes.”

Quick tip: “Know when the rut occurs for your area,” Bordelon said. “Louisiana has a wide range of breeding dates depending on location in the state. Taking advantage of the rut will increase your odds for harvest success. Each year, the weekly harvest rates align closely with peak activity associated with the rut.”

Season dates/bag limits: wlf.louisiana.gov/page/seasons-and-regulations

Maine

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: About 290,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 33,159

Overall outlook: “Deer populations in southern and central Maine continue to be at or above desired levels and growing, and hunters this year will have significantly more opportunity to take antlerless deer than they have in the last few decades,” says Nathan R. Bieber, deer specialist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Much of the rest of Maine has a very cyclic deer population tied to winter conditions, and the last couple have been mild, so those areas are looking a bit better. If you want to see more deer, hunt central or southern (Maine). If you want a chance to see a big, old deer, hunt north. Throughout northern Maine, 15 to 20 percent of our bucks harvested are 5 years old or older.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Bieber says biologists expect somewhat of an uptick in harvest in the northern half of the state. Northern Maine’s harvest depends on conditions more than other areas of the state, and 2020 saw poor conditions — warm weather with little or no snow until late — and a subsequent low harvest. Given decent conditions in 2021, hunting there should be better.

Quick tip: “It’s looking to be a big food year, with oaks, apples and beeches being laden with fruits compared to last year, when the cupboards were pretty bare,” says Bieber. “Scout your food sources, and know what the deer are hitting come hunting season, because they’ll have plenty of options this year and may not use them all equally.”

Season dates/bag limits: maine.gov/ifw/hunting-trapping/hunting-laws/deer-hunting.html

Maryland

Species: Whitetail and sika deer

Estimated population: 232,000 whitetails, 10,000 to 15,000 sika deer

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 78,275 whitetails, 3,454 sika deer

Overall outlook: Brian Eyler, Game Mammal Section leader with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, says the state’s deer population and annual harvest remain steady. He believes the 2021-’22 harvest should be on par with those of recent years, with the exception of southern Maryland, where EHD hit in 2020. The availability of older-class bucks should be similar to that of previous years and has improved during the past couple of decades.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: The aforementioned EHD outbreak in southern Maryland affected Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties, so biologists expect a decreased harvest in those counties for a couple of years.

Quick tip: “Concentrate on finding deer sign and natural foods (acorns and other mast), and hunt those areas,” says Eyler. “If possible, have multiple stand locations to hunt from based on the current wind conditions.”

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/hunt_trap/Deer-Hunting-in-Maryland.aspx

Massachussetts

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Sometimes, what they lack in antler-size, they make up for in body size. This buck tipped the scales at 170 dressed.

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: More than 100,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 14,757

Overall outlook: Martin Feehan, deer and moose project leader with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, says the overall statewide population has continued a gradual increase that has been occurring for decades. However, that’s mostly concentrated in the central and eastern portions of the state. The population in western Massachusetts is mostly stable and within goals in most areas open to hunting.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Feehan said zones 9 through 14 in eastern Massachusetts have the highest deer abundance — especially zones 10 and 11 around metropolitan Boston, and the island zones, 13 and 14.

Quick tip: “The success of a hunting season is usually determined before opening day,” Feehan said. “Those that put in the work are most likely to be rewarded.”

Season dates/bag limits: mass.gov/info-details/deer-hunting-regulations

Michigan

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: More than 410,000

Overall outlook: “Last year’s harvest of over 410,000 deer was the highest in Michigan over the past decade, and 2021 should see another great year for hunters,” says Chad Stewart, deer management specialist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Though antlerless harvest was up over 25 percent in 2020 from 2019, that by no means infers that there will be far fewer deer in 2021. The historic trend has been increasing populations throughout much of the Lower Peninsula, with variable trends in the Upper Peninsula, depending on where you hunt. This past winter was mild throughout all of Michigan, and no substantial winter mortality was observed in the northern parts of the state. The spring and early summer of 2020 started dry but (the state) has seen abundant rainfall throughout much of the rest of the summer. With antler production strongly tied to summer rainfall, hunters should see nice racks on bucks this fall, especially those 2.5 years old or greater.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Stewart says the southern Lower Peninsula remains the best area for deer numbers and bigger bucks because of abundant agriculture. The northern Lower Peninsula tends to have good deer numbers, but it also features areas where deer can be more difficult to find. Many areas of the Upper Peninsula have seen a decline in overall numbers in recent years, but after a mild winter, populations should be improved. Some parts of the Upper Peninsula, such as the south-central portion along the Wisconsin border, continue to have abundant deer numbers.

Quick tip: “Deer are not evenly distributed across the landscape, so the most successful hunters seek out areas where deer are most abundant prior to the season due to food resources and make sure they have access and optimal stand locations going into the season,” says Stewart.

Season dates/bag limits: michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79119_79147_81438—,00.html

Minnesota

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 197,249

Overall outlook: Barbara Keller, big-game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says overall deer populations are faring well after another mild winter.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “In general, deer populations are trending higher in the northwestern, central, and southeastern parts of the state,” says Keller. “Deer populations in north-central and northeastern Minnesota remain low and have struggled to recover from past severe winters.”

Quick tip: Keller said hunters should check rules about CWD sampling regulations in parts of the state, as new areas have been added for 2021. Also, several new areas have been added to the early antlerless season in October, which is a great opportunity to help manage the buck-to-doe ratio before the rut.

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/deer/index.html

Mississippi

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: Unavailable

Overall outlook: In 2020, the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks says that the overall deer numbers seem to be stable or increasing.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: The southern Delta region experienced record flooding in 2019 and 2020, which negatively affected deer numbers and health.

Quick tip: Recent data indicates that almost 75 percent of the state’s buck harvest consists of deer 3.5 years old or older.

Season dates/bag limits: mdwfp.com/media/253620/21-2021-2022-hunting-season-flyer-web_final.pdf

Missouri

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.5 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 297,214

Overall outlook: “There are abundant and growing numbers of deer across much of the state,” says Jason Isabelle, cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Coupled with recent season and permit liberalizations, we expect a very strong deer harvest this fall. Although nice bucks are harvested throughout the state each year, northern Missouri generally has the greatest potential to produce larger-antlered bucks. The mixture of forest, cropland and grassland of many northern Missouri counties provides great habitat for whitetails. There is an antler-point restriction in place in many northern Missouri counties, which helps to increase age structure of the buck segment of the population.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Isabelle says deer numbers across much of the state are near historic highs. The lowest deer numbers are in extreme southeastern Missouri and the extreme northwestern corner of the state. Except for those areas, the harvest elsewhere in 2020 should be very good.

Quick tip: “Given that Missouri’s deer season spans a four-month time period, it’s important for hunters to consider the stage of the season they’re hunting in and the factors that are going to influence when and where deer will be moving during daylight hours,” say Isabelle.

Season dates/bag limits: mdc.mo.gov/hunting-trapping/species/deer

Montana

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: About 330,000 mule deer, 200,000 white-tailed deer

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 54,751 mule deer, 51,012 white-tailed deer

Overall outlook: Brian Wakeling, Game Management Bureau chief with the Wildlife Division of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says population trends vary by areas within the state. Relatively mild winters have favored overwinter survival, but drought and wildfires have challenged recruitment. Because Montana provides optimum hunting opportunity, most of the state doesn’t have abundant older-age-class mule deer. However, older bucks are far more common in special management areas where participation is limited, such as Hunting District 270.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Northeastern Montana is doing well, whereas northwestern and central Montana have seen stable to declining trends,” says Wakeling.

Quick tip: “Montana has a lot of private land, so get access early,” says Wakeling. “You have a long season and a lot of area to hunt, so make the most of it.”

Season dates/bag limits: fwp.mt.gov/hunt/regulations/deer

Nebraska

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Nebraska just might be the top secret state for both big whitetals and mule deer.

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 50,828 whitetails, 9,438 mule deer

Overall outlook: Luke Meduna, big-game program manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says the outlook for 2021 is good. Mule deer are trending down slightly, but whitetails are stable to trending up across most of the state.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Meduna says regional forecasts look similar to those of 2020. Many units, especially in western Nebraska, have seen increases in whitetail populations. Many central and southern units have seen minor decreases in mule deer.

Quick tip: “Enjoy your time out chasing deer this year, put some food on the table, spend time with friends and family, but most of all, have fun,” Meduna says.

Season dates/bag limits: outdoornebraska.gov/deer

Nevada

Species: Mule deer

Estimated population: 84,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: about 7,000

Overall outlook: Cody Schroeder, wildlife staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, says deer populations are trending down, but the overall quality of bucks remains high because of conservative management.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Schroeder says Lincoln County continues to produce high-quality mule deer. Washoe County is down in numbers and quality.

Quick tip: “Invest in high-quality optics, walk as far from roads as you can and spend lots of time glassing from high vantage points,” Schroeder added.

Season dates/bag limits: ndow.org/Hunt/Seasons_and_Regulations

New Hampshire

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Late-season New England hunter Hal Blood with a buck that he tracked down in the Berkshire Hills.

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: about 100,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 13,044

Overall outlook: “The outlook for the 2021 season is very good,” says Dan Bergeron, game programs supervisor and acting deer project leader for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “Deer numbers have been relatively stable or increasing throughout most of the state for a number of years. This is in part due to continued winters of below-average severity and good fall food production during 2020. Deer went into the winter of 2020-’21 in good condition, and all indications are that mortality was low and productivity was high.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Bergeron said biologists noted some small declines in a few northern wildlife management units (north of the White Mountains). As a result, antlerless hunting opportunities in those units were reduced for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. All other state units have been stable or increasing, and antlerless hunting opportunities were increased in several areas. The most productive units are typically in the southeastern part of the state and along the Connecticut River valley to the west.

Quick tip: “Despite deer numbers being up in much of the state, New Hampshire is still near the northern limit of whitetail range,” Bergeron adds. “As a result, deer densities are still relatively low. Hunters should be sure to put in as much time as they can scouting to increase their chances of success.”

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.state.nh.us/hunting/deer-wmu.html

New Jersey

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 148,053 (2020 estimate of the huntable portion of the state’s herd)

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 54,980

Overall outlook: “New Jersey’s mild winters and above-average productivity in most parts of the state make for an overall abundant and healthy herd,” says Carole Stanko, chief of the Bureau of Wildlife Management for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Harvests and population estimates are trending upward, so New Jersey remains a great place to fill your freezer or get a wall-hanger from a CWD-free herd.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Stanko says Gloucester, Hunterdon, Mercer, Monmouth, Salem, and Somerset counties continue to produce quality deer and have higher deer densities.

Quick tip: Stanko says New Jersey has large amounts of open space, including more than 358,000 acres of wildlife management areas. Hunters can use the new interactive Hunting Explorer app at njfishandwildlife.com to find potentially productive areas.

Season dates/bag limits: nj.gov/dep/fgw/deer.htm

New Mexico

Species: Mule deer (desert and Rocky Mountain subspecies) and whitetails (Coues and Texas subspecies)

Estimated population: 80,000 to 100,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 11,306

Overall outlook: “The population is stable in most areas of the state, with stable production and buck-to-doe ratios,” says Orrin Duvuvuei, deer program manager with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “Some local populations in areas with good moisture may be slightly increasing. Conversely, a few local areas that are in long-term drought may be slightly decreasing.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Duvuvuei adds that the northern portion of the state and the sand hills in the eastern part of New Mexico hold good deer numbers, with some bucks sporting large antlers.

Quick tip: “Hiking to and glassing areas that you cannot see from the road will increase your opportunities to locate and harvest a buck,” says Duvuvuei. “Don’t be afraid to hike several miles each day and glass from likely vantage points.”

Season dates/bag limits: https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/information-by-animal/big-game/deer/

New York

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1 million to 1.2 million (2020 estimate)

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 253,990

Overall outlook: New York’s 2021 deer hunting forecast said biologists expect 2021-’22 to be another productive season for hunters. Statewide, deer populations benefited from a relatively mild winter and favorable weather during fawning season and early summer. The supply of deer food throughout the state was in generally good condition.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Some portions of New York have been dry, and gypsy moth caterpillars have taken a toll on forests in portions of the eastern Adirondacks and Finger Lakes, which will affect mast production in those areas. The 2021 buck harvest should be similar to that of 2020, the forecast said, although there might be exceptions in localized areas heavily affected by EHD in 2020. The Department of Environmental Conservation has decreased deer management permits (antlerless tags) in a large area of south-central and southwestern New York, but has maintained or increased antlerless tags in north-central, northwestern and much of southeastern New York.

Quick tip: “Many New York hunters are choosing to let young bucks go and watch them grow,” says Jeremy Hurst, big-game unit leader for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “You can, too.”

Season dates/bag limits: dec.ny.gov/outdoor/28605.html

North Carolina

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: About 1 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 169,973

Overall outlook: Jonathan Shaw, coastal operations supervisor and former state deer biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, says 2020-’21 was the third hunting season after the state implemented significant rule changes to improve the herd. Harvest figures and other supporting data indicate North Carolina continues to move closer to meeting density, sex ratio and age structure objectives across most of the state.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: In 2020, Shaw says hunters consistently find large bucks in the state’s north-central counties. And generally, populations have decreased the past decade in the eastern portion of the state.

Quick tip: Shaw suggested in 2020 that hunters know the timing of the peak rut in the areas they intend to hunt and plan their outings accordingly.

Season dates/bag limits: ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Hunting/Season%20Date%20PDFs/2021-22%20Deer%20Season.pdf

North Dakota

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 30,671 whitetails, 8,651 mule deer

Overall outlook: Bill Jensen, big-game biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, says deer numbers look stable for 2021.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Jensen suggests that areas south and west of the Missouri River look promising.

Quick tip: Jensen said hunters should contact landowners well before the season.

Season dates/bag limits: gf.nd.gov/hunting/deer

Ohio

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 197,721

Overall outlook: “From all indications, the statewide population appears to be somewhere between stabilizing and ticking upward slightly,” said Michael J. Tonkovich, deer program administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “The harvest indexed to account for changes in hunting participation as well as observation data suggests that populations may be approaching stability.”

For the first time since 2013, Tonkovich said, Ohio hunters can use deer management permits, which are valid on private land and for controlled hunts in all 88 state counties.

“However, given all of the uncertainty about the economy and the pandemic, I’d say that I’m cautiously optimistic at best that hunters will respond to the availability of the antlerless permit this year as they have in the past,” he said. “In the end, I think we will be doing well to see a harvest similar to last year.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Tonkovich says he’s cautiously optimistic that public-land hunters might see an uptick in harvest opportunities for antlered and antlerless deer. The state enacted regulations in 2018 to reduce the harvest of antlerless deer on public land.

Quick tip: “If you’re involved in deer management, stay involved — you’re making a difference,” adds Tonkovich. “If you’re not, engage where you can, and if nothing else, stay informed. Deer management just got more complicated in Ohio with the recent discovery of CWD in our wild deer herd. Were going to need your help.”

Season dates/bag limits: ohiodnr.gov/wps/portal/gov/odnr/buy-and-apply/hunting-fishing-boating/hunting-resources/hunting-regulations

Oklahoma

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 750,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: More than 126,000

Overall outlook: Dallas Barber, big-game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, says that the overall outlook is great. Many springs and summers of rain have habitat looking good. Hunters continue to shift management plans toward mature bucks, so the age structure of the state’s herd continues to improve.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “There really isn’t a bad region to be in when deer hunting the Sooner State,” Barber adds. “All corners have been producing impressive bucks over the last five years, with many bucks topping the 200-inch mark.”

Quick tip: “While corn feeders can be a successful approach, don’t look past oak flats once the acorns have dropped,” Barber said. “They are much preferred over any baits.”

Season dates/bag limits: wildlifedepartment.com/hunting/species/deer

Oregon

Species: Blacktail deer (western Oregon), whitetail deer (primarily in northeastern Oregon), and mule deer (east of the crest of the Cascades)

Estimated population: Mule deer population estimates have declined slightly the past five years, especially after the harsh 2016-’17 and 2017-’18 winters. Populations decreased slightly from 2020, with about 60 percent of mule deer units showing declines.

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 34,350 (total 2019-’20 harvest). Justin Dion, assistant wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s game program, said the 2020-’21 harvest was similar.

Overall outlook: Dion says blacktail and whitetail deer numbers are relatively stable. Some whitetail populations are still recovering from an AHD/EHD outbreak that caused significant reductions in some areas. Mule deer are down in some areas since severe winters in 2016-’17 and 2017-’18. Recent drought conditions will be especially tough on mule deer in many areas of eastern Oregon, and populations might experience a sharper-than-normal decline going into winter. Mature bucks are available in all areas. Areas with higher buck ratio management objectives (available online) generally have a higher proportion of mature bucks.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Mule deer populations and controlled hunt tag numbers are down slightly overall, particularly in northeastern Oregon in Baker, northern Harney and Malheur counties, and some parts of Union County,” says Dion. “Additionally, there is no longer a general archery season for deer in eastern Oregon. All areas east of the Cascade crest are now in controlled hunts for archery.”

Quick tip: “Put the time in and do your research for the area you plan to hunt,” says Dion. “Be prepared for weather extremes during your hunt.”

Season dates/bag limits: myodfw.com/big-game-hunting/seasons

Pennsylvania

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 435,180

Overall outlook: Bret Wallingford, deer biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, says deer populations are doing well in all wildlife managements units. Populations are stable in 19 WMUs, increasing in three and decreasing in one (by design). Productivity was stable in 17 units and declining in six. However, population objectives are being met in those areas, so biologists weren’t concerned about productivity. In 2020, 64 percent of the state’s buck harvest was comprised of bucks 2.5 years old or older. Yearlings made up only 36 percent of the 2020 buck harvest, so there should again be an abundant class of 2.5-year-old and older bucks for the 2021 hunting season.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “Pennsylvania is pretty diverse, so much depends on what the individual hunter wants,” says Wallingford. “The more difficult areas to hunt in north-central Pennsylvania, on state forest lands and state game lands, can offer a remote-type of hunt similar to what you would have in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. And there are some considerably older bucks in these remote public-land areas. But getting into them means hunting difficult terrain, and getting a deer out is even more difficult. But there are a lot of lands that are easier to access on foot, including public land and private land once landowner permission is obtained.”

Quick tip: “Find several land parcels you want to hunt, do the scouting, and have multiple places to hunt in each parcel during different parts of the day and when the wind changes,” Wallingford said.

Season dates/bag limits: pgc.pa.gov/HuntTrap/Law/Pages/SeasonsandBagLimits.aspx

Rhode Island

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 2,349

Overall outlook: “Harvest has been slightly increasing, so I expect another good year for deer hunters,” says Dylan Ferreira, senior wildlife biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Ferreira adds that the northern and southern parts of the state always seem to produce big deer. Gypsy moths killed oaks across the western part of the state from 2015 through 2017, and biologists might start to see some impacts from that.

Quick tip: “Mature males have comprised 30 percent of the total male harvest during our check-station time frame (traditionally, muzzleloader season the first weekend in November), so if you want to harvest a mature male, that’s a good time hit the woods and pass on younger bucks,” says Ferreira.

Season dates/bag limits: dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/huntabs.pdf

South Carolina

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 720,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 197,893

Overall outlook: “The outlook for the 2021 deer season in South Carolina is excellent,” says Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. “The estimated deer population is about 720,000, with the population stable to slightly increasing the last few years. Antlered deer age structure in the harvest tends to be approximately 40 percent 1.5 years old and 60 percent 2.5-plus years old.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Ruth says he didn’t expect any areas to be down. For quality, he suggested hunters look to Aiken, Anderson and Orangeburg counties. For quantity, they should check out Bamberg, Anderson and Spartanburg counties.

Quick tip: “Peak breeding throughout most of South Carolina is mid-October through mid-November, with the last week in October and the first week of November being the two weeks during which the highest percentage of does breed,” adds Ruth.

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/deer/index.html

South Dakota

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 415,000 whitetails, 80,000 mule deer

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 51,638 whitetails, 7,434 mule deer

Overall outlook: Steve Griffin, big-game wildlife biologist for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, said deer hunting should be excellent in most areas of South Dakota, as population trends are increasing.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “South Dakota does not manage for trophy deer, but hunters have the potential to find a deer that they would consider a trophy anywhere in South Dakota,” Griffin said.

Quick tip: “Most of South Dakota consists of private land, so it’s very important to obtain permission before applying in South Dakota,” Griffin said. “This permission before arriving in South Dakota will make your hunt more enjoyable and is vital in maintaining positive landowner/sportsman relationships.”

Season dates/bag limits: gfp.sd.gov/deer

Tennessee

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: Not available

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 160,267

Overall outlook: “The overall outlook is promising,” says James D. Kelly, deer management program coordinator for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “After several consecutive years of drops in overall harvest, we had a banner year of harvest last season due to the COVID effect. The percentage of (bucks 2.5 years old or older) in the harvest continues to increase.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Kelly says that he expects the overall harvest to be down somewhat because there likely won’t be a COVID-related increase in pressure and participation.

Quick tip: “Read the hunting guide from front back, and have a paper copy on hand for quick reference,” says Kelly.

Season dates/bag limits: tn.gov/twra/hunting/big-game/deer.html

Texas

Deer Hunting Season 2021 Forecast: A State-By-State Guide
Outdoor Life associate editor Joe Genzel and a Texas whitetail

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: 5.44 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 852,448

Overall outlook: Alan Cain, whitetail deer program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, says he expects a great season throughout most of the state.

“If fawn recruitment predictions hold true, coupled with a good carryover of deer from the 2020 hunting season, landowners and hunters should expect to see an increase in the overall statewide population,” Cain says. “Statewide fawn recruitment estimates average about 39 percent, and this year, we should expect to see fawning recruitment in the 45 to 50 percent range, if not higher.”

Cain added that the Edwards Plateau in south-central Texas has the highest deer numbers, with an estimated population of 2.06 million. The Hill Country remains a great region, and expectations there are above average for 2021. Hunters there should expect to see more mature bucks (5.5 years old or older) relative to other age classes because of good fawn production in 2013 through 2016. The South Texas Plains ecoregion is known for mature bucks and above-average antler quality.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “All areas of the state, except the Trans-Pecos (far western Texas), are looking good for the upcoming deer season,” says Cain. “Most of the state has received substantial rainfall over the spring and summer and relatively mild temperatures until late July. Habitat conditions are in great shape, and antler growth is looking really good. The Trans-Pecos has been dry, and antler quality might be down in that region of the state.”

Quick tip: “Hunters may expect the exceptional habitat conditions to moderate deer movements at feeders and blind locations in the early part of deer season, so be patient,” says Cain. “With a high fawn recruitment expected this year, hunters are encouraged to fill their doe tags to help keep population growth in check, especially in the areas of the Hill Country and Cross Timbers ecoregions.”

Season dates/bag limits: tpwd.texas.gov/regulations/outdoor-annual/regs/animals/white-tailed-deer

Utah

utah mule deer
Editor-in-Chief Alex Robinson with a Utah mule deer. Alex Robinson

Species: Mule deer

Estimated population: 314,850

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 25,343

Overall outlook: “We have had a sharp reduction in deer over the last four years,” says Covy Jones, big-game program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Drought (and) a few harsh winters are responsible for below-average adult survival and reduced fawn recruitment. Also, we grew a lot of deer from 2010 to 2016, and we grew a lot of predators along with them. With climate being the main driver for reduction in populations, we have also seen a bigger impact on deer from predators because their populations were maintained at the high levels they reached with abundant deer populations in 2015 and 2016. We are working hard to bring that predator-prey relationship back into balance.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Jones says deer are down in southern, southeastern, northern and northeastern Utah. The central portion of the state saw more moderate impacts from recent droughts, and deer have been buffered a bit in some of those units.

Quick tip: “If it were always easy, it wouldn’t be called hunting,” Jones added. “Work hard, and realize nothing is ever a guarantee. Enjoy the experience of the hunt, and if you are fortunate enough to harvest, that is just a bonus.”

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.utah.gov/hunting/main-hunting-page.html

Vermont

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 133,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 18,991

Overall outlook: Nick Fortin, deer and moose project leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, says that the deer population is stable, and the recent higher abundance of older bucks should continue.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “The southern Champlain Valley has been steadily increasing in recent years,” says Fortin. “No areas are expected to be down notably.”

Quick tip: “Find a few different hunting spots, and be prepared to adjust as deer patterns change,” Fortin added. “Hunt where they are, not where they were.”

Season dates/bag limits: vtfishandwildlife.com/hunt/hunting-and-trapping-opportunities/white-tailed-deer

Virginia

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 1.27 million

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 209,356

Overall outlook: Matt Knox, deer project coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says the state’s deer population is relatively stable, and he doesn’t expect a major increase or decrease in the statewide 2021 harvest.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Counties with the highest private-land deer populations include Loudoun, Rockingham, Amherst, Bedford, Craig and Grayson.

Quick tip: “Past experience indicates that the ups and downs in annual deer kill totals are in part attributable to food conditions or hemorrhagic disease outbreaks,” Knox said. “In years of poor mast (acorn) crops, the deer kill typically goes up. In years of good mast crops, the deer kill typically goes down.”

Season dates/bag limits: dwr.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations/deer

Washington

Species: mule deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer

Estimated population: 300,000 to 320,000 total

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 29,435 total deer

Overall outlook: Kyle Garrison, ungulate specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said population metrics indicate that mule deer and black-tailed deer are stable, and white-tailed deer populations exhibit stable, increasing and potentially decreasing trends across management zones.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “We don’t anticipate major deviations in success across the species for the 2021 season,” Garrison said. “It has been a dry year, and deer populations are often sensitive to environmental fluctuations, but the impacts as of yet are hard to predict in terms of hunter success and overall harvest.”

Quick tip: “Consistent success is a function of understanding the behavior of the species you are pursuing, perhaps most importantly understanding the local population’s habitat use and movement patterns throughout the seasons,” Garrison said. “Time spent scouting will pay big dividends when the season opens, so grab your boots, optics and a GPS, and get out there.”

Season dates/bag limits: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/big-game

West Virginia

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: 420,000

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 106,861

Overall outlook: Brett Skelly, assistant deer project leader with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said prospects for 2021 look good, but scouting will pay dividends because of abundant soft mast.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Skelly said western and north-central counties look promising for 2021.

Quick tip: “Do your homework and scout for natural food sources, especially early on in the season,” Skelly said.

Season dates/bag limits: wvdnr.gov/hunting-seasons

Wisconsin

Species: Whitetail

Estimated population: No estimate

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 336,250

Overall outlook: “All arrows are pointing toward the opportunity for an increase in harvest numbers across Wisconsin,” says Jeff Pritzl, deer program specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Last fall’s harvest data suggests a growing herd, and the mild winter of 2020-’21 allowed deer to come through with good body weight, which leads to good antler development and fawn production. Fawn/doe observations have just begun to be collected, but we had very good weather during the fawning season, and vegetation growth to support lactation has been good as well.”

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: Pritzl says the 2020 buck harvest didn’t rebound as strongly in the far northeastern forested region of the state, so those counties continue to have a very conservative antlerless harvest strategy to maximize future population growth potential. However, antlerless harvest quotas have been raised throughout much of the state. Deer densities are highly variable at local levels, so becoming familiar with deer sign and seasonal food availability is important.

Quick tip: “Find your own adventure,” adds Pritzl. “There are myriad legal and productive strategies, and in Wisconsin, myriad habitats and spaces to pursue the white-tailed deer.”

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.wisconsin.gov/topic/hunt/deer

Wyoming

wyoming whitetail
Shooting Editor John B. Snow with a Wyoming whitetail buck. John B. Snow

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 330,700 mule deer, 92,200 whitetails

Fall 2020-’21 harvest: 21,370 mule deer, 19,904 whitetails

Overall outlook: Grant Frost, senior wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, says mule deer have exhibited a downward population trend with poor fawn survival in recent years. Hunters can find older bucks in any herd, but abundance is highly variable based on location, management and access. Whitetail populations remain stable overall, with increasing harvest. Hunting for older bucks depends highly on access to private land.

Potential Fall 2021 hotspots: “The southeastern quarter of the state had the best precipitation to date in 2021, which could lead to improved conditions there for antler growth and fawn survival,” says Frost.

Quick tip: “Hot and dry conditions this summer could lead to some challenging conditions for deer hunting this fall,” Frost added. “Mule deer in the mountains may remain high in greener areas as long as possible. For whitetails, conditions could be prime for outbreaks of disease such as EHD, which can kill large numbers very quickly.”

Season dates/bag limits: wgfd.wyo.gov/Hunting/Hunt-Planner/Deer-Hunting