2011 Outdoor Life National Deer Hunting Forecast We look at deer herd health, harvest numbers, new regulations and trophy potential in all 50 states. See where your... By Brian McCombie | Published Aug 10, 2011 12:25 AM Hunting SHARE It’s been a strange year so far for deer herds. First, regions in the Northeast and Northwest were crushed by a long, brutal winter. Then the South was drowned by floodwaters in the spring. Huge stretches of land in the Southwest spent the summer burning in wildfires or baking under severe drought. How have deer herds fared through it all? Excellent in some cases, poor in others. To give you a better idea of what you can expect in the woods this fall, we put together a gallery looking at harvest numbers, herd health, new regulations, and Boone and Crockett trophy data in all 50 states. We looked at whitetails, mule deer and even blacktails. The gallery is ranked by harvest numbers from 2010, starting with states that took the most deer to states that took the least (some states didn’t have 2010 data in yet so we went back to 2011). Also included is the overall B&C rank for each state over the last 10 years. See how your home state stacks up. To read about why deer numbers are down in some regions go to: Are We Killing Too Many Does? #1 – Texas Harvest 2010: 688,076 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 10 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 14 Large areas of Texas spent this spring burning. According to the Texas Forest Service, by early June some 2.8 million acres of the Lone Star State had been scorched over by wildfires this fire season. If normal levels of rain fall this summer, all should be well for deer. But Texas is in the middle of a major drought, a drought that continues for 2011. “If dry conditions and more fires persist … it could have a substantial impact on deer body weights and overall condition heading into the breeding seasons,” says Steve Lightfoot, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department spokesperson. That said, Texas deer are doing quite well overall, with numbers trending up over the last six years. The 2010 harvest survey results estimated the Texas whitetail deer population to be somewhere between 3.1 million to 4.2 million deer. “Over the long term, once the rains return habitat conditions should be vastly improved because of the fire, which helped open things up for the re-growth of native plant communities,” Lightfoot adds. “The current drought conditions will impact fawn production this year, but the lower production is not necessarily bad as many regions of the state are at or close to carrying capacity with the native habitats.” There are no regulation changes of significant note for the 2011 Texas deer hunting season. _ **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer._ #2 – Michigan Harvest 2010: 418,000 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 13 While the winter was essentially average to mild in Michigan, even in its northern reaches, deer populations in much of the Upper Peninsula and portions of the Northern Lower Peninsula are still below population goals. To alleviate this situation, the Department of Natural Resources will not give out antlerless tags in one unit in the U.P. and two units in the L.P. In these three units deer numbers were not increasing at the rate officials hoped. Herd health is good, the exception being a long-term situation with bovine tuberculosis. “We’ve been dealing with a self-sustained infection of bovine tuberculosis within deer in the northeast portion of our Lower Peninsula for over 15 years now,” says Brent A. Rudolph, Deer and Elk Program Leader for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The prevalence has been reduced over the long-term, but has remained statistically unchanged at around 2 percent in the core area for the past five to seven years.” Habitat is a concern, too, particularly in western and central portions of the Upper Peninsula. “The timber harvests occurring there have been on a downward trend since the late 1990’s,” he notes. “The large amount of early successional habitat that was there is aging, and nowhere near that amount is being created. This is part of the reason we are continuing a pretty conservative approach to antlerless harvest up there despite the recent mild winter conditions.” #3 – Georgia Harvest 2009: 398,668 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 17 According to the Georgia Department of Natural Resource’s Senior Wildlife Biologist Charlie Killmaster, “Georgia’s deer population has been on a downward trend over the past five years and has now been reduced to a healthy level. Initially a welcome change, the downward trend is now a concern as we are faced with lower deer recruitment rates (the number of fawns per doe) than seen several years back.” The state had huge harvests in 2010 and 2009. Don’t sleep on Georgia as a trophy deer state. While it’s not exactly competing with the top B&C producers in the Midwest, Georgia hunters have taken more record book bucks than hunters in any of the neighboring states (Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina). For 2011, the biggest changes to the laws and regulations are the legalization of hunting deer over bait in the southern half of Georgia and a reduction of either sex days (doe days) in several northern counties. The reduction in doe days is an attempt to boost the declining recruitment rates. #4 – Wisconsin Harvest 2010: 336,871 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 1 Earn-A-Buck is no more in Wisconsin. The controversial program, which required hunters in many deer units to take a doe before they could harvest a buck, was ended by the Wisconsin State Legislature for the 2011 hunt. The four-day October antlerless hunt was also axed. Deer harvest numbers in Wisconsin have been sliding for years, which has frustrated many hunters. From 2006 to 2010 the harvest dropped by about 33 percent. The big deer health concern here is Chronic Wasting Disease, and it persists in the Dairy State. The affected CWD Zone has steadily expanded in Wisconsin. The DNR’s management plan has been to reduce deer populations as much as possible in these areas–but expanded seasons, free tags and other inducements have failed to make a dent in deer populations within the CWD Zone. Meanwhile, CWD prevalence has not gone down. The good news about deer health is that the winter wasn’t bad across most of Northern Wisconsin, and the winter kill was pretty minimal, says DNR deer biologist Jeff Pritzl. But it was an extended winter and some deer units could see less fawn production than normal this spring. “Winter went long and late, especially in a pocket centered on Taylor, Price and Rusk Counties,” says Pritzl. Just as things were starting to warm up, a big snow storm hit, socking this “pocket” with 15 inches or better of snow in early April. “We really won’t know if fawns numbers are going to be down until August or September,” Pritzl notes. “So, if there is an impact on fawns, it won’t affect the 2011 hunting season as much as it might 2012.” #5 – Pennsylvania Harvest 2010: 316,240 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 21 Pennsylvania saw a little winter kill, says Jerry Feaser, Game Commission spokesperson, but nothing significant, and certainly nowhere near enough to make deer managers revamp the fall hunting season. In fact, deer hunters in western Pennsylvania are reporting more trophy bucks in recent years and many give credit to the minimum point restriction rule that was instituted in 2002. Overall herd health? “Deer health indicators have been stable for the last decade at healthy levels,” Feaser says. “Forest health is a separate issue and has been generally fair across the state for the last decade.” Things are pretty similar this year to the 2010 deer hunt, with two exceptions. First, there now are 11 of the 22 Wildlife Management Units that will have a split-season structure for the two-weeks of the firearms deer season. “This means that 11 WMUs will have a full two-week concurrent (buck and doe) season, while the other 11 WMUs will have a five-day only buck season followed by a seven-day concurrent (buck and doe) season structure,” Feaser explains. Antler restrictions on WMUs also received some modification. “For the first time since 2002, there has been a modification in the four-point antler restriction so that those WMUs in which a legal buck had previously been defined as one with a minimum of four points on one antler now must have a minimum of three points ‘up,’ not counting the brow tine,” Feaser adds. #6 – Alabama Harvest 2009: 289,100 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 34 “Alabama’s deer herd remains strong in all parts of the state,” says Chris Cook, deer coordinator for the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Hunters have an excellent opportunity for success regardless of where they hunt. The deer harvest has been down the last few years, but there is no real concern about the overall health of the state’s deer population.” That down harvest, says Cook, was most likely due to the 2007-2008 regulation change that put the bag limit at three bucks per season. “Prior to that, hunters could shoot one antlered buck a day with no season limit,” Cook notes. “We’ve also had some unusual weather during our hunts, extreme cold and heavy rains, that seems to have hurt the hunts, too. Hunter numbers have dropped some as well.” No major changes in season dates or bag limits were proposed for this year’s Alabama deer hunt. #7 – Missouri Harvest 2010: 274,587 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 6 There are no significant changes for the 2011-2012 deer season in Missouri. “Statewide, the deer population is stable,” says Jason Sumners, chief deer biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “We have seen some localized decreases in deer numbers over the past five years, thanks to a liberalization of antlerless harvest and localized outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease. But nothing serious.” Missouri’s deer management focus has been on shooting more does and reducing buck harvest somewhat. You can see the effects of this strategy in the slight drop in the harvest. Hunter participation remains strong. “In 2008, we had over 500,000 people with some form of deer hunting permit,” Summers notes, “and that continued through this past season when we issued permits to 507,000 individuals.” From a trophy deer standpoint, it’s no secret that Missouri is a honey hole. But the numbers are still impressive. In the last five years the state has almost doubled its number of B&C entries for nontypical whitetails compared to five years previous. #8 – Ohio Harvest 2010: 238,683 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 4 The Ohio deer herd’s doing just fine, says Mike Tonkovich, the Ohio DNR’s Deer Project Leader. In fact, he’s expecting the fawn crop this year to be especially robust, thanks to another crop, this one from 2010. The state’s harvest rates have held steady over the last five years. “My guess is that the abundant mast crop we had last fall probably will translate to healthier deer overall (this year), and perhaps even larger fawn birth weights,” says Tonkovich. The only real change for 2011 is that hunters get to say goodbye to metal registration tags. Though hunters must still report their deer harvest, they no longer have to take their deer to a deer check station for physical inspection. Hunters will have three options to complete the automated game check: via Internet, telephone or through any hunting license agent. #9 – Mississippi Harvest 2009: 238,453 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 15 Mississippi deer hunters should have another solid year. Deer numbers are good and deer health appears to be excellent, says Chad Dacus, Assistant Director of the Wildlife Bureau for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. “The only possible concern,” Dacus says, “may be in the South Delta area due to the flooding [of the Mississippi River].” Some deer may be killed, others displaced. Fawns are especially at risk. In May Mississippi suffered its worst flood in more than 70 years. Thousands of acres of forests and farmland was submerged. “However, we won’t know the true impact of the flood until later this fall,” Dacus says. One significant addition to the 2011 deer hunt concerns deer dog hunting on Homochitto National Forest. Under the new regulations, anyone hunting in the forest with dogs between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31 must obtain a permit to hunt any animal or to train dogs on areas open to deer hunting with dogs. The permit is free, and all hunters 16 years old and older hunting with a group must be listed on the permit prior to hunting. Also, all dogs have to wear a functional tracking collar and be identified at all times with the permit number and the owner’s contact information. Additionally, Sunday hunting on all of the state’s wildlife management areas is allowed. Previous regulations only allowed Sunday hunting on select WMAs. #10 – New York Harvest 2010: 230,100 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 18 New York State’s deer came out of the winter with no abnormal winter kill. At this point, though, while season dates are posted, much of the 2011 hunt is still in the proposal stages. True, much of the proposals made by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation look like last year’s hunt. But some major differences exist, including: starting the bowhunting season earlier, which would give archers an extra 14 days of hunting; a special deer hunting weekend for teenagers; and, restrictions on taking spike-antlered bucks in parts of southeastern New York. Expect the last of DEC’s proposals to draw the most fire. The teenager weekend hunt is an effort by DEC to boost dwindling hunter numbers in the state. The Empire state is the top dog for Boone and Crockett entries on the East Coast over the last 10 years, beating out every state on the right side of Ohio. Yep, even Pennsylvania. #11 – South Carolina Harvest 2010: 222,696 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 39 “Although South Carolina’s deer population trend has been down in recent years, harvest figures and deer quality remain good throughout most of the state,” says Charles Ruth, Deer and Wild Turkey Program Coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources. “Approximately 220,000 deer were taken in 2010 and it is anticipated that results in 2011 will be similar.” Counties with the highest harvest rates include Allendale, Bamberg, and Orangeburg in the coastal plain and Anderson, Spartanburg, and Union in the piedmont region. Top counties for big bucks? Aiken, Anderson, and Orangeburg Counties. #12 – Virginia Harvest 2010: 219,797 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 23 Virginia’s 2010 deer harvest was down, especially in western Virginia and many hunters were very unhappy about that decline. “But the fact is, after the late season deer kill is added in, the 2010 deer kill number will end up being the sixth highest deer kill ever recorded in the state of Virginia,” says Matt Knox, Deer Project Coordinator for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Still, Knox admits, the lower deer populations were part of his agency’s overall plan, and several years of big antlerless harvests appear to have had the desired effect. As far as this season’s hunt, legislation now allows tracking dogs–maintained and controlled on a lead– to be used to find a wounded or dead deer statewide during the archery, muzzleloading or firearm deer season. #13 – Minnesota Harvest 2010: 207,313 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 9 The biggest news of late for Minnesota deer hunters was that a wild deer was found with Chronic Wasting Disease last year near Pine Island, in southeastern Minnesota. That finding prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to kill nearly 800 deer in the area for testing. None of those deer were CWD positive. But the DNR has created a CWD Surveillance Area in the area nonetheless, and it is the big hunting regulation change for 2011. The DNR is still in the process of finalizing the 2011 season, says Lou Cornicelli, the DNR’s Big Game Program Coordinator. New regs should be out later in the summer. Expect a much liberalized hunt in the CWD Area to thin deer numbers and hopefully contain any spread of CWD. Of note, an emergency deer feeding ban went into effect in February for Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha Counties. Otherwise, the 2001 hunt will look pretty much like last years. One issue of note, is that some crucial deer habitat in the southwest could be in trouble. “We have areas in the state, particularly in the southwest, where deer rely on small woodlots, riparian areas, and CRP acres for their habitat,” Cornicelli says. “But with high corn and soybean prices, some of that habitat is being converted to agricultural production. So we’re seeing a net reduction of annual cover, and it’s particularly noticeable in winter cover. Also, when corn prices are low, landowners are more tolerant of deer damage. When they are this high, they tend to file more complaints,” leading to more kill permits. #14 – Arkansas Harvest 2010: 186,166 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 14 The Arkansas deer herd is in very good shape and the state has had banner harvests the last three seasons. It’s been so good that for this year, the bag limit’s been raised. For the 2011-12 hunting season, the statewide deer bag limit was increased from five deer to six deer, with no more than two bucks. Another change: preference points will be eliminated starting with the 2013-14 deer hunt. Instead, a completely random drawing will be used to select applicants for deer permit hunts. Waiting the two years will allow hunters who currently have preference points, to utilize those points. “In the interim, no hunters will accrue new preference points,” said Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wildlife chief David Goad. “Additionally, all members of party hunt applications that are successfully drawn for a hunt will lose their accrued points even if the permit is not purchased. This will eliminate the problem of super groups attempting to monopolize the deer permit system.” One problem, though: heavy flooding of the Mississippi River in southeastern Arkansas had deer scrambling for their lives. The high waters also drove the hungry deer into agricultural fields where they wreaked havoc on crops. So much so, Game and Fish was issuing some kill permits to farmers. #15 – Illinois Harvest 2010: 181,936 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 2 Too far south to feel winter’s worst (usually), the Land of Lincoln reported no winter kill, says Tom Micetich, Deer Project Manager for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Deer went into the spring in good condition, and he expects no spring fawning issues. The one issues that looms over Illinois’ deer herd and deer hunting? Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). “We continue to have CWD issues in northern Illinois, adding three new counties to our list of those having had at least one confirmed CWD-positive animal,” Micetich notes. “Our disease focal area continues to be Winnebago, Boone, McHenry and DeKalb counties–with additional (recent) positives from northeastern Ogle, western Stephenson, LaSalle, western Grundy, Kane, and eastern Jo Daviess counties.” All these counties will now be under the CWD season rules, which include: waiving the two antlered-buck limit this season; and, using any unfilled permit from youth, firearm, or muzzleloader season during the seven-day split CWD Deer Season–provided it was issued for a CWD county. “The purpose of that is to allow hunters to increase their harvest from affected areas, reducing deer populations, and, hopefully, increasing the number of adult animals sampled for CWD from these counties,” says Micetich. Otherwise, seasons and regulations are essentially unchanged from 2010. #16 – North Carolina Harvest 2010: 175,157 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 32 Last year, North Carolina’s harvest of 175,157 deer just missed the state’s record 2008 harvest of more than 176,000 whitetails. The 2011 deer hunt is expected to challenge that record once again. “We estimate we have about 1.3 million deer statewide, and they’re at generally stable levels in our rural areas,” says Evan Stanford, deer project leader for the North Caroline Wildlife Resources Commission. “Although, we do have increasing densities in our urban and suburban areas.” Stanford expects hunters will be paying more attention to the archery season, now and in the near future, thanks to last year’s rule change allowing the use of crossbows. “I would bet that part of the archery harvest is going to continue to increase at a rapid rate for the next few years, as more and more hunters buy crossbows,” he says. North Carolina has more than two million acres of state game lands, providing a wealth of deer hunting opportunities. These hunts do require permits, many of them bought over the counter. However, there are a number of drawings, too, that limit hunter numbers and provide for higher quality hunts. #17 – Tennessee Harvest 2010: 162,808 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 24 “We’re likely to have another great deer hunting year,” says Tennessee’s deer coordinator, Daryl Ratajczak. “I’d expect the harvest to be in that 160,000 deer range that we’ve had for the last several years.” But “great” still means the harvest is expected to be down a bit from a banner season in 2006. It wasn’t that long ago that Tennessee’s deer herd was hit and hit hard by or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). The disease, which is usually fatal for deer, causes hemorrhaging and forces deer to lose their appetites and strength. “We estimated that 60,000 deer died from EHD in 2007,” says Ratajczak. Which explains the drop in harvest numbers that hunters experienced in the last few seasons, going from 182,000 deer taken in 2006, but just 164,000 the year after. “Since then, we’ve seen a tremendous improvement in herd health and deer quality,” Ratajczak notes. Thanks to a quality deer management approach, and hunters who have voluntarily accepted responsibility for passing on young and small bucks, fully 60 percent of the Tennessee buck take is in deer 2.5 years old and older. “All of this with a three buck limit,” Ratajczak says. The big change for this year’s hunt is that there is no starting, stopping and then re-starting the various hunts. Archery starts the fourth Saturday in September, muzzleloading the third Saturday before Thanksgiving and traditional gun the first Saturday before Thanksgiving. All hunts then end on January 1, 2012. #18 – Louisiana Harvest 2010: 153,500 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 28 The big change for deer hunting this fall in Louisiana is that a Quality Deer Season (QDS) has been established on 20 select Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s) across the state. “The QDS was established to provide an additional seven days of deer hunting opportunity on these WMAs,” explains Randy Myers, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries spokesperson. “The dates were selected in an attempt to capture the secondary rut period. Hunters will be restricted to harvesting deer with at least four points on one side, where a point must be at least one inch long and its length must exceed the length of its base.” The Special Youth Deer Season on private lands has also been extended from two to seven days. In addition, youngsters will be allowed to use any legal weapon during the Primitive Firearms Season in each deer hunting area. Spring flooding of the Mississippi River may have impacted some deer locally, but it’s impossible to know how much damage the flood did to deer numbers until the fall. The flooding was exceptionally bad in the southern part of the state near Baton Rouge where engineers opened the Morganzana Spillway. The maneuver saved New Orleans from flooding, but it submerged hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland and forests. It also displaced a countless number of deer. To read more about how the flood impacted the deer herd go to: What Happens to Wildlife When Floodwaters Rise? #19 – Indiana Harvest 2010: 134,004 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 8 Deer hunters in Indiana had a great 2010, a record in fact, taking 134,004 deer in all. It’s the third straight year in a row that Hoosier deer harvest set a record. This year? “It’s hard to predict a record, but the opportunity will be there,” says Chad Stewart, the Indiana DNR’s main deer research biologist “When nothing really changes regulation-wise from year to year, you can pretty much expect similar results from the previous year or years. I would expect another harvest of 130,000 plus, which would put the 2011 harvest in a Top Three of all time.” The only dark clouds on the horizon are two of the most serious deer diseases: Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and Bovine Tuberculosis. “So far, Indiana has not detected either in our free ranging deer herd,” Stewart says. “However, we feel that our deer herd is at risk for both diseases. CWD has been documented in free ranging deer in Illinois, and they recently detected the disease even closer to our border, approximately 50 miles from our state line, within the past year.” Meanwhile, Bovine TB has been detected in multiple cattle and game farm herds in Indiana within the past couple years. Livestock and game farm animals invariably have contact with wild deer. “These are the largest concerns, because once these diseases become established, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate from the population,” Stewart says. #20 – Iowa Harvest 2010: 127,094 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 3 Deer management and politics are butting heads in Iowa. According to reports, Iowa Governor Terry Branstand pressured the state Natural Resources Commission to reverse an earlier decision that would reduce antlerless deer quotas in 35 counties. Instead of that reduction, Iowa will offer as many antlerless deer permits as it did last year: 132,900. That action has upset some hunters who think the state is killing too many does. It’s easy to see the steady decline in harvest numbers each year since 2006. As Randy Taylor of Reasnor, vice president of the Iowa Bowhunters Association, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette: “The state can put those doe tags out there, but the hunter is the management tool. We don’t have to shoot those does, and if we stop shooting them, the deer herd will be right back where it was.” Politics aside, the Iowa deer herd is in pretty good shape, says DNR deer biologist Tom Litchfield, despite some scattered winter kill in the northeast corner of the state. The herd seems to be stabilizing, and the DNR hopes to continue that trend. #21 – Oklahoma Harvest 2010: 114,000 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 12 Looks like another solid season coming up in Oklahoma. “In spite of drought conditions across much of the state, our deer are doing well,” says Jerry Shaw Big Game Biologist, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC). “Populations are stable to increasing, with individuals in fair to good body condition.” There are no big changes in the 2011 seasons or regulations. However, as of right now, the antlerless seasons for muzzleloader and modern firearms are not set. #22 – Kentucky Harvest 2010: 110,376 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 5 Kentucky’s whitetails are healthy and numerous, and trophy buck potential here remains high. Last year, Kentucky hunters took 52 bucks that ranked as Boone and Crockett trophies. The state is a sleeper for trophy bucks and it has quietly climbed into the top 5 Boone and Crockett states over the last 10 years. “Our only real deer management concerns are that enough does are harvested this year to reduce deer populations in Zone 1 counties (northern Kentucky) and Zone 2 counties (Central Kentucky),” says David Yancy, Deer Project leader for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Resources. “South-central and southeastern Kentucky (Zone 3 and 4 Counties) are the only portions of the state where we’d like to see further growth in the deer population. We’re also working to make sure the take of yearling bucks is held to around 45 percent of the antlered bucks bagged.” Yancy reports no regulations or season alterations of note for this year’s hunt. #23 – West Virginia Harvest 2010: 106,500 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 37 “Deer in West Virginia should be in good shape coming out of winter this year because of the excellent acorn crop last fall,” notes Jim Crum, deer biologist with the West Virginia DNR. “The limited deer examined this spring have good kidney fat … This year’s fawn crop should be good.” The big blip on West Virginia’ deer radar continues to be Chronic Wasting Disease. First detected in Hampshire County in 2005, to date 83 deer there have tested positive for the brain wasting disease. A single deer from the 2010 hunt also was found to be CWD positive in Hardy County, just south of Hampshire, suggesting that the disease is moving outwards. The West Virginia DNR is testing large numbers of deer for CWD, and has instituted a feeding and baiting ban in Hampshire County. #24 – Montana Harvest 2010: 100,904 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 29 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 9 Deer in parts of the Big Sky State took a beating this past winter full on the chin. Less antlerless tags will be the result. It’s hard to say for sure, but harvest numbers will likely continue to trend downward in Montana. “Certainly, whitetails and mule deer in Eastern Montana took significant winter kills,” says Ron Aasheim, of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “We’re going to be more conservative with permits there, this fall, that’s for sure.” Along the Rocky Mountains, Montana deer actually faired pretty well. Aasheim notes near-record snow falls in many parts of Western Montana, but temperatures were average. The problem, he says, is that winter went long. Very long. “At elevations you wouldn’t expect it, the snow kept falling into April and even early May,” he notes. Many of these snow storms, and long, chilling rains, fell just as does were getting ready to drop fawns. Aasheim expects that this increased seasonal stress killed many fawns. How many? That won’t be known until this fall. Earlier this year Reuters reported that states in the West were suffering record winter kills. Montana had higher antelope winter kill rates than officials had seen in more than 30 years. You can see the report here. **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #25 – Maryland Harvest 2010: 98,663 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 20 Maryland’s deer population is stable, harvest numbers have held steady over the last five years and this fall should offer excellent deer hunting opportunities. “We had an abundant acorn crop last season which means healthy deer this year,” says Brian Eyler, Deer Project Leader, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “The 2011 season is set, with no significant changes from last year.” One small change: the Junior Deer Hunt Saturday will now be a Junior Deer Hunt weekend, running Saturday and Sunday so youngsters will have another day to bag that first deer. Unfortunately, last November a hunter in Allegany County took a deer that was infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the Green Ridge State Forest. This was the first confirmed case of CWD in the State. In early June, the DNR proposed new regulations to prohibit feeding deer in the area of Green Ridge State Forest and to restrict movement of hunter-harvested deer parts from this new CWD Management Area. Before the fall hunt begins, hunters need to check with the DNR on what changes were instituted due to CWD. #26 – South Dakota Harvest 2010: 94,726 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 19 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 11 South Dakota’s deer herd got slammed last winter. “This last winter was again brutal in South Dakota,” says Ted Benzon, Senior Big Game Biologist with South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. “Winter mortality on deer in the northeastern part of the state is estimated at 10 percent to 20 percent. The northwestern section of the state also experienced a long, cold winter.” Proposals are still under consideration for East River deer hunts, and include an increase of 1,500 tags for one-tag licenses, but a 5,110 reduction in two-tag licenses. The Game, Fish and Parks Commission will make that decision in July. Meanwhile, the Black Hills deer season is set and will offer to residents 400 any-deer licenses, 3,500 any-whitetail licenses, and 200 antlerless whitetail licenses. That represents a reduction of 500 any-whitetail licenses and 100 antlerless. Non-resident licenses saw some small reductions, too. As far as the West River Deer Season, the Commission decided to create three units with limited, draw hunts, to try to create a higher quality deer hunt. **Harvest includes whitetail and mule deer. #27 – Kansas Harvest 2010: 92,000 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 7 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 10 The herd’s generally healthy and still growing in some eastern locales, though Lloyd Fox, a Big Game Program Coordinator for Kansas Wildlife and Parks, notes that Chronic Wasting Disease is extending its reach here. “The first case was documented in 2005 in the furthest north and west county in Kansas,” Fox says. “Positive deer have been detected 75 miles south of there and 150 east of that site since then. While the disease has currently caused no measurable effects on the deer herd, CWD will potentially be a significant and negative factor on deer populations in Kansas in future decades.” Another issue is drought. The state has been slammed by a heatwave that’s drying up watering holes. DNR officials worry that deer could be drawn to stagnant water that infested by disease spreading midges. The biggest worry is epizootic hemhorrhagic disease. “EHD is a deer killer,” Fox recently told a local newspaper. “Things are setting up for an outbreak.” But despite potential trouble on the horizon, the state is consistently producing record bucks. In the last decade, bowhunters have taken 12 bucks that ranked in the state’s all-time top 20 and gun hunters also took 12 bucks that ranked in the state’s all-time top 20. There are no significant changes in deer seasons or hunting regulations for this fall’s Kansas hunt. **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #28 – Nebraska Harvest 2010: 88,000 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 11 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 16 Last year Nebraska set an all-time state record for overall whitetail deer harvest and antlerless whitetail deer harvest (read more about the record harvest here). This year, even more Nebraska deer hunters are going to have to “earn” their bucks. In 2010, for the first time, hunters in the Elkhorn and Wahoo units of eastern Nebraska had to kill a doe before taking a buck, otherwise known as “Earn a Buck” or EAB. It has expanded for 2011. According to Kit Hams, Big Game Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, EAB has been added to three more hunting units, Blue NW, Blue SE, and Missouri. Meaning, “The five deer hunting units that border the Missouri River are now EAB units,” says Hams. “The EAB rules apply to November firearm permits only, and the (EAB) goals is a 25 percent whitetail herd reduction in three years.” “Mule deer herds are in pretty good shape statewide,” Hams adds. “Overall we are near a record high and are allowing limited doe harvest to deal with overabundance in some areas.” One exception to that trend: mule deer numbers in the Pine Ridge unit of northwestern Nebraska have been down for several years; fewer antlerless permits will be issued here to help them rebound. The trend for trophy hunters has also been positive. In fact, the state record buck was taken last year by Kevin Petzilka. The deer scored 203 4/8 and will go down in the top 10 Boone and Crockett list. “The age structure of harvested mule deer and whitetail bucks continues to set records for proportion of bucks age two years and older,” says Hams, who notes that 75 percent of whitetails and 83 percent of mulie bucks harvested across the state are two years old or better now. “Growing herds, hunter selection for older bucks, and a wealth of antlerless permit options all play a part.” **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #29 – North Dakota Harvest 2010: 73,000 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 16 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 15 Another brutal winter for North Dakota, another battering taken by the state’s deer herd. “Deer numbers in many parts of the state continue on a downward trend following three consecutive difficult winters,” says state deer biologist Bill Jensen. “Coupled with an aggressive harvest approach on antlerless deer in units with deer numbers above management goals, we have a reduction in the deer population in many, but not all, units.” For example, mule deer populations in the Badlands region are 23 percent below last year and 38 percent below 2007. As a result, there are 4,550 mule deer tags for this year, which is a decrease of 2,725 from 2010. One exception: whitetails are doing so well in an area north of Bismarck, a special herd reduction season is being implemented there. Throughout the rest of the state, available deer licenses by unit will either remain the same or slightly decrease. **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #30 – New Jersey Harvest 2010: 54,404 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 36 New Jersey had a very good 2010 deer season, and all signs are that 2011 will be every bit as solid. “Our 2010 harvest was up five percent over the 2009 harvest,” notes Carole Kandoth, deer project leader for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. “All the bowhunting harvests were up.” Kandoth credits the increase in the archery deer take to several regulation changes made over the last three years: allowing the use of crossbows; Sunday archery hunting being offered on state wildlife management areas and private property; and changing the bowhunting “safety zone,” which is the minimum distance you can fire a bow from an occupied building, from 450 feet to 150 feet. Changes in the 2011 hunt are possible, though they are still in the proposal stage. The big proposed change for the firearms season: an additional five deer management units in Southern Jersey could be added to the other antler point restriction zones, where a legal buck must have at least three points on a side. “New Jersey sportsmen had requested that change,” Kandoth says. #31 – Wyoming Harvest 2010: 49,100 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 38 B&C Rank Mule Deer:2 Winter took a huge toll on Wyoming’s deer. “Deer populations in the northeast and the western parts of Wyoming suffered higher losses than normal,” says Mark Konishi, Wyoming Game and Fish spokesperson. “Severe, prolonged winter conditions are to be blamed for these losses. Mortality estimates were as high as 35 percent on adult does in areas north of Rock Springs, Wyoming, and fawn loss is expected to be high in these areas, too.” That has led to some shortened seasons and fewer tags in the affected areas. The takeaway? “Deer hunting is expected to be tougher than normal this year,” says Konishi. Worse, with so many does and fawns essentially stripped from herds, deer numbers in the next few years could go way down. **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #32 – Idaho Harvest 2010: 42,100 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 26 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 7 Overall, Idaho’s deer and elk herds fared well through an unusually long, wet winter. But wildlife in a few specific regions of the state was devastated this winter. “We did have a few management units in the Island Park area in eastern Idaho and three units in the Hells Canyon area in the southwest where mule deer fawn survival dropped below 50 percent,” says Ed Mitchell, spokesperson for Idaho Department of Fish and Game. In fact, over-winter fawn survival among 15 study areas in Southern Idaho was the lowest since the Department began such monitoring, with a staggering 69 percent of radio-collared fawns dead by April 30 of this year. Mule deer fawn survival was lowest in the McCall-Weiser, at 9 percent, and the Island Park, at 18 percent, areas. Because of this low over-winter survival, the Game Commission approved a reduction in 2011 tags in these areas, making approximately 1,200 fewer tags available. “But this is an almost unnoticeable hit in the statewide context,” says Mitchell. “Generally, our deer hunters, both for mule deer and whitetails, have been pretty happy campers in the last few seasons.” **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #33 – Oregon Harvest 2010: 38,241 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 42 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 8 Oregon deer hunters will see fewer antlerless tags for blacktails this year. “This past winter was difficult in parts of northeastern Oregon,” says Don Whittaker, Ungulate Coordinator for Oregon Fish and Wildlife. “Black-tailed deer are struggling in western Oregon and antlerless tags have been dramatically reduced in northwestern Oregon” for the 2011 hunt. At the same time, though, whitetail deer in northeastern Oregon are doing well, and Columbian whitetail deer are in pretty good shape in southwestern Oregon. Minus the drop in blacktail tags, Whittaker says this season and it regulations will pretty much resemble 2010’s. **Harvest includes blacktail, mule deer and whitetails. #34 – Washington State Harvest 2010: 33,400 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 33 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 12 Most herds, for blackmails, mulies and whitetails, are stable or growing in Washington State. After getting hammered during the severe back-to-back winters in 2007 and 2008, whitetail deer are starting to come back, and 2011 promises to be the best it’s been for a while. “Mule deer numbers are strong and looking good in north central Washington, especially in Chelan and Okanogan Counties,” says Jerry Nelson, Deer and Elk Section Manager for the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Black-tailed deer numbers in western Washington are consistently stable overall, but can be quite variable at the drainage or Game Management Unit level, depending upon recent forest management practices.” The only blemish on this nice deer picture is that mule deer numbers are still down in central Washington. So, this fall’s hunt will look pretty much like last years, as far as seasons and regulations. “We make major changes on a three year cycle,” Nelson explains. “2011 is the third year of a three year cycle. If any major changes develop, they will be part of the upcoming 2012-2014 package.” **Harvest includes blacktail, mule deer and whitetails. #35 – Colorado Harvest 2010: 34,800 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 25 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 1 While much of Colorado escaped significant winter kill other western states suffered, mule deer fawns took a hit in the northwest corner of the state, especially in the areas around he Craig and Maybell. Snow was heavy in this region, and that snow fell well into May. A long-term deer survival study in the area had fawn survival rates typically in the 70 percent range. This past winter? Just 40 percent. Meanwhile, adult mulies fared at their normal rates. “We had reduced numbers of deer licenses in some areas in response to the heavy winter of 2007-2008 and we have made additional adjustments in some units to address the winter of 2010-2011,” says Andy Holland, big game manager for Colorado Division of Wildlife. “That said, we believe we’re in fairly good shape compared to what we are hearing from some other states in the western US.” That longer-term reduction in deer tags is starting to add up. In 2008, Colorado issued 96,041 deer licenses. That dropped to 88,118 in 2009, and then 85,118 in 2010. For 2011, the quota is for 83,923 deer licenses. “Where we have had concerns with some West Slope mule deer herds, we have lowered buck licenses to maintain buck-doe ratios,” Holland explains. “So hunters who do draw tags will still find good buck hunting.” East of Interstate 25, plains deer herds are doing well, with licenses stable or increasing where the Division is looking to reduce whitetail numbers. **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #36 – California Harvest 2010: 25,950 deer B&C Rank Mule Deer: 13 Even though parts of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains saw record levels of snow this past winter, for the most part California made it through unscathed. “By all indications the past winter has not resulted in any larger than normal winter mortality, and there has been no change in deer tag quotas because of adverse weather,” says Andrew Hughan, Information Officer for California Department of Fish and Game (DFG). Yet there have been drops in tag numbers for this upcoming deer hunt, nonetheless. Many were small changes (Deer Zone X-3b, for example, going from last year’s 935 general season deer tags to 875 tags this year or X-3a at 230 tags versus 280 last season.) One alteration, though, was certain to catch the attention of California deer hunters. “The biggest change was for the combined B zones where the tag quota went from 55,000 to 35,000 tags,” says Dan Yparraguirre, DFG’s interim deer program coordinator. “While that might look huge, the number of tags sold in those zones was closer to 37,000. That recommendation [to drop tag numbers] was based on public input relative to deer hunter success, and it wasn’t due to any dramatic change in deer biology.” **Harvest includes blacktails and mule deer. #37 – Utah Harvest 2010: 24,241 deer B&C Rank Mule Deer: 4 While Utah’s mule deer herd is fairly stable, “We would like to see an increasing trend in deer numbers,” notes Anis Aoude, Big Game Coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “To do that, we are improving deer habitat statewide and managing predators on specific units where we think predation is the limiting factor.” The state’s also issuing fewer tags. In May, the Utah Wildlife Board reduced the number of general-season rifle and muzzleloading buck deer hunting permits by 7,000 for the 2011 hunts. Northern and Central Region tags remained unchanged compared to last year. But tags got cut in the Northeastern, Southeastern, and Southern Regions. One concern biologists are trying to address is a low number of fawns per 100 does in a number of the hunting units. In addition to the rifle and muzzleloader permits, the board also approved 16,000 general archery deer permits for 2011, the same number of approved in 2010. Bigger changes are coming in 2012. At that time, the state’s deer management plan will shift from managing for at least 15 bucks per 100 does after the fall hunts to at least 18 bucks per 100 does after the hunts. To reach that goal, expect tags to get slashed even further. #38 – Maine Harvest 2010: 20,063 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 22 It was a tough winter for Maine’s deer herd, and that’s going to make it a lot tougher to get an antlerless permit there this fall. “We had a pretty hard January and February is what it comes down to,” says deer biologist Lee Kantar, of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “When it’s February and you have 18 to 24 inches of snow–in southern Maine? That’s pretty tough for deer.” In parts of Northern Maine, he adds, there was still nearly two feet of snow on the ground well in April! This most recent deer kill was not as bad as the Winter of 2008-2009. “In some places, the deer mortality was greater than 30 percent (during the 2008-2009 winter),” Kantar says. “It was ugly.” Deer numbers were just starting to rebound from that horrible winter, when this winter beat down on the herd. Which is why Maine hunters have a 46 percent reduction in any-deer permit allocations for 2011. In Maine, the bulk of the antlerless harvest comes through the any-deer permits. #39 – Vermont Harvest 2010: 15,523 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: NA “Vermont’s 2011 winter severity was above average, although we only anticipate a decline of an estimated 10 percent in the deer population for this year,” says Scott Darling, Species Section Supervisor for Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department. “As a result of the winter severity, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department proposed 9,575 antlerless deer for the 2011 muzzleloader season, down 63 percent from 2010.” He adds that, “Despite the more difficult winter, the health of the state’s deer population remains very good, with average deer weights continuing to increase.” #40 – Delaware Harvest 2010: 14,183 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 30 Statewide, the Delaware deer herd is stable to slightly declining. “In some states a declining deer population is a bad thing? Here in Delaware it is a needed thing as the population had expanded to levels that were too high,” says Joe Rogerson, state Game Mammal Biologist. “As for hunting opportunities, hunters have a full five-month season and liberal bag limits.” Last year’s harvest of 14,183 deer 14.4 percent above the 2009 hunt, and only the third time in state history that the deer take topped the 14,000 mark. This past season marked the first time that hunters could use crossbows to harvest deer, from Sept. 1, 2010 through Jan. 31, 2011 within the newly created crossbow season. This new season runs concurrently with the traditional archery season; hunters can use compound, recurve or longbows. “Although the season was new, Delaware hunters still managed to harvest 398 deer during the crossbow season, compared to 1,400 during the traditional archery season,” said Rogerson. #41 – New Mexico Harvest 2009: 13,205 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 41 B&C Rank Mule Deer: 3 New Mexico is and has been in, “a historic drought,” says New Mexico Game and Fish deer biologist Darrel Weybright, “winter, spring and now into the summer. Ever since they’ve been recording such things, this is the absolute driest we’ve ever been.” On the other hand, the long-term forecast calls for a wetter than normal August. If those rains come, Weybright expects that adult and fawn mule deer will go into the fall in very good shape. He adds that this winter had some periods of intense cold, but very little snow. So New Mexico’s mulies experienced minimal winter kill. Almost all of the state is “fork-antlered bucks” or better (some youth hunts being the exception), so antlerless tags are not an issue. So the big question, that only time will answer, is: will the rains come? If they do, expect some decent hunting this fall, says Weybright. If not? Could be a tougher than normal year to get your buck in New Mexico. The bigger changes to this year’s hunt versus last years are: crossbows are now legal during rifle or muzzleloader seasons, but NOT during archery season and all license fees must be paid when you submit your application. **Harvest includes whitetails and mule deer. #42 – Connecticut Harvest 2010: 12,183 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 35 Steady, steady in the State of Connecticut. The deer population is healthy and generally stable, though game mangers continue to liberalize seasons in areas where the densities are higher than desired. The biggest problem for hunters may be Lyme Disease. The tick-borne affliction was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975 and has been expanding steadily ever since. In 2009, relative tiny Connecticut ranked fifth in the United States in reported cases of Lyme that year. Lyme disease doesn’t affect deer much, but it can kill hunters. For 2011, the only change of significance to the hunt is that hunters can now use revolvers during the Shotgun/Rifle/Revolver hunt, November 16 to December 6. #43 – Massachusetts Harvest 2010: 10,697 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 27 Last year, Massachusetts had a bumper acorn crop, and deer went into the winter in very good condition. Which helps explain why, “Despite extremely high snow falls in January and February of 2011, no significant winter kill was reported by the public or observed by wildlife biologists,” says Sonja Christensen, Deer and Moose Project Leader for the state’s Fisheries and Wildlife. “Deer populations in much of the state have stabilized and have been maintained at deer population goal levels,” she adds. “In eastern Massachusetts, east of Hwy 495, deer populations continue to thrive in many suburban areas where supplemental food is prevalent and hunting access is often restricted.” The 2011 seasons will look pretty much as they did last year. “One regulation change of note is that break-open breach muzzleloaders will now be legal within the muzzleloader deer season,” says Christensen. “This regulation is still officially pending final approval, so hunters should check with our agency at www.masswildlife.org for further updates as the season nears.” #44 – Arizona Harvest 2010: 9,940 deer B&C Mule Deer Rank: 5 Arizona’s mule deer populations have been on the increase for the last decade or so. “Mule deer numbers have probably increased by about 10% over that time,” says Brian Wakeling Game Branch Chief for Arizona Game and Fish, “whereas the Coues white-tailed deer population has seen more modest increases.” That’s the good news. The not-so-good? “Arizona is facing a pretty challenging wildfire season, and it is not over yet,” Wakeling adds. “The Wallow Fire has burned through over half of a million acres of mule deer habitat in ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests in the east central part of the state, while the Horseshoe Two and Monument fires continue to burn in the southeastern Arizona mountain islands that are home to our Coues deer.” Wakeling stresses that, long-term, these fires should regenerate important habitats and create an abundance of new deer forage. Yet, for this fall’s hunt, hunters may find the deer pretty scattered in areas swept by wildfire. And, depending on what sort of precipitation these areas receive or don’t, the deer could well be foraging elsewhere. Hunters will find season dates and permit levels very similar to that of 2010. There is a slight decrease in general deer and juniors-only antlerless tags on the Kaibab to continue the increase in the size of that herd. Minor permit adjustments were made throughout the rest of the state, but most units will have permits that are close to last year’s levels. #45 – New Hampshire Harvest 2010: 9,759 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 31 “New Hampshire’s deer herd continues to recover from severe winters in 2007-08 and 2008-09,” says Kent A. Gustafson, Deer Project Leader for New Hampshire Fish and Game. “The winter of 2010-11 saw persistently deep snow in February and March but, fortunately, melting in late March and no late-winter storms spared the deer herd from what could have been a much worse winter.” He adds, “Seasons similar to those in 2010 will remain in effect for 2011 with reduced either-sex hunting opportunities in an effort to speed herd recovery.” Not surprisingly, northern hunting units here had the worst winter kill. Generally, though, these units already had the fewest either-sex days to begin with. #46 – Nevada Harvest 2010: 6,909 deer B&C Rank Mule Deer: 6 There’s a fight going on in Nevada between the Board of Wildlife Commission and the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) over mule deer management. This spring, the Wildlife Commission won a big round when it voted to reduce the number of mule deer buck tags across the state. If you think NDOW is happy over that vote, consider this, from a NDOW press release: “Against the recommendations of Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) big game biologists, the Commission reduced mule deer buck tags in all but five unit areas, cutting staff recommendations by 25 percent, and reducing mule deer buck tags in five specific hunting units by cutting staff recommendations by 10 percent….” “Based on increased population numbers, herd condition and exceptional moisture levels in much of the state, the NDOW big game biologists recommended an increase in 2011 quotas,” said NDOW Acting Director Ken Mayer. “However, the Commission chose to ignore the scientific data presented by staff and reduced tag numbers, which creates a significant loss of opportunity for deer hunters.” Translation: while NDOW recommended 14,910 buck tags statewide, the Commission only allocated 11,536 mule deer buck tags for 2011. For its part, the Wildlife Commission said it has heard from unhappy deer hunters for years that mulie numbers were far too low. As Chairman Scott Raine of Eureka, told the Reno Gazette-Journal before the Commission’s vote: “We want to actually have some meaningful management of the animals to actually increase the population. We’ve been doing a lot of talking but there’s not been very much direct action. At some point, you’ve got to take some action.” #47 – Alaska Harvest 2010: 5,710 deer Alaska’s deer species is the Sitka black-tailed deer, a native of the coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska and north-coastal British Columbia. Its range has been expanded via transplants, and in Alaska established populations exist near Yakutat, in Prince William Sound, and on Kodiak and Afognak Islands. While it is also hunted along the southeast coast of Alaska, two-thirds or better of the annual Sitka harvest actually occurs on Kodiak and Afognak Islands, also known as Game Management Unit 8. “During most years, the strength of our deer population is determined by the severity of the winter,” says Larry Van Daele, the Kodiak Area Wildlife Biologist with Alaska Fish and Game. “During the mid-2000s we had some tough winter weather that reduced the populations. But the past couple of winters have been relatively mild and the deer are coming back nicely. We anticipate a very good hunting season this year.” Hunter success has averaged around 60 percent over the last five years, and peak hunting time usually occurs in November. #48 – Rhode Island Harvest 2010: 2,569 deer B&C Rank Whitetails: 40 “The Rhode Island deer herd is healthy and abundant,” says state deer biologist Brian Tefft, with an estimated whitetail population of 15,000 statewide. “We are CWD free, with 2010 surveillance showing no evidence of the disease.” Last year, the Department of Environmental Management split the state into deer management zones 1 and 2. In management zone 1, which includes the many urban-suburban and coastal communities surrounding Narragansett, deer numbers are on the upswing. Zone 2, mostly western Rhode Island, has stable deer populations. “We have established a season limit of one antlered buck statewide, regardless of zone, for each method used,” Tefft notes. “We are allowing the use of a crossbow for all hunters during the shotgun deer season, using a shotgun deer tag.” Additionally, the reporting of deer harvested this season will be done via a postage-paid “kill report card” that hunters fill out and mail within 24 hours of taking a deer. The exception is during the first four days of the muzzleloader season, when hunters must still report all deer to a state-operated check station to be weighed and measured. #49 – Hawaii Harvest: Literally only in the dozens each year. The small state of Hawaii has a big problem with deer. Non-native Axis deer were recently confirmed on the big island of Hawaii, and agricultural interests here immediately called for their eradication. This newest discovery indicates a purposeful introduction, and the state is taking measures to try to get rid of the newest invaders, including using trackers and game cameras to confirm locations. No word yet if hunters will get a chance to help the situation. Meanwhile, Axis deer do provide some relatively minimal hunting opportunities on the other islands. Axis deer were first introduced to Moloka’i and O’ahu in 1868, Lana’i in 1920, and Maui in 1959. Today, an estimated 12,000 Axis deer roam Maui alone. But hunter access is a big problem. “Unfortunately, 99 percent of Axis deer are located on private lands,” says Deborah Ward, information specialist with Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. “Axis deer hunting on public land on Maui is extremely limited–many years we have no deer taken, as indicated by hunter check station reports. There is some axis deer hunting on private lands, such as Arrow One Ranch and some of the time at Kaupo Ranch. The only public area that we would recommend to pursue Axis deer on Maui would be in our Kula Forest Reserve (Unit C).” She adds, “Our Maui biologist notes that the Axis deer population on Lanai is down from the past few years due to the extreme drought Hawaii experienced last year.” #50 – Florida Harvest: Florida does not do harvest counts. “The deer population in Florida is doing well and seems to be trending upward in much of the state,” says Cory R. Morea, Deer Management Program Coordinator for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “However, there are pockets in Florida that have depressed deer populations.” One of those “depressed” populations is in the Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area in South Florida. New rules for the 2011 deer hunt here will affect Zones 3 and 4 of the Stairsteps Unit. No deer may be harvested from Zone 4. Deer hunting will be allowed in Zone 3, but with a reduced bag limit from two to one deer per season, and all deer harvested from Zone 3 must have a forked antler. In Zones 1 and 2, where deer hunting will be allowed to continue under current regulations. There’s been a dramatic decline in Stairstep Unit deer numbers this past decade. Biologists think that an increasing number of flooding events are killing a large number of fawns every year. Some adults may be taken, too. The other major change in the 2011-12 hunt is that, on private lands, the crossbow season has been extended to run concurrent with archery season. During that time, deer of either sex may be taken. The use of crossbows on wildlife management areas during archery season is still prohibited except by those individuals with a disabled crossbow permit. — Data for this article was compiled with assistance from Boone and Crockett Club’s on-line trophy database. For information about this very valuable information service and other Boone and Crockett Club activities, please visit their web site at www.booneandcrockettclub.com We look at deer herd health, harvest numbers, new regulations and trophy potential in all 50 states. See where your deer hunting state ranks. Big Game Hunting Bowhunting Hunting Whitetail Deer Hunting MORE TO READ RELATED Shotgun and Shotshell Facts: The Hard Truths Behind Smoothbores and the Payloads They Shoot There are far too many shotgun and shotshell myths out there. Let’s clear things up READ NOW RELATED Keys to Making Good Archery Shots on Bears (and Recovering Them Quickly) Understanding bear anatomy is the secret to making perfect bow shots on bears. But not all bear anatomy diagrams are accurate RELATED Tennessee Hunter Takes Rare Cinnamon-Colored Gobbler "They were so light colored it was like seeing snowballs on the ground in summer"