The 2020 Deer Hunting Season Forecast

Use this state-by-state guide to help plan your deer season

A hunter kneeling to the side of a large buck.
The author with a solid Wisconsin buck. Brian Lovett

Although it feels as if 2020 has dealt us a giant collective gut-punch, take heart: Deer season is on the way. And opportunities abound from coast to coast and border to border.

Whether you plan to stalk the big woods of the Northeast, explore the piney timber of the South, stake out ag fields and woodlots in the Midwest, or explore the vast open range of the West, the deer are waiting. In fact, you can get after them in a few weeks.

But there’s much to be done first: planning, shooting, scouting, cutting lanes, checking cameras, tending to food plots and more. Better get busy, as deer season will open before you know it. Meanwhile, here’s an overview of 2020-2021 hunting options nationwide.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Alabama

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: About 1.25 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: The estimated harvest is unavailable, but hunters using Game Check reported a 14 percent increase in harvest.

Overall outlook: “Everything looks good for the 2020-‘21 season,” says Chris Cook, deer program coordinator for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. “Deer are abundant across the entire state, and the age structure of the annual buck harvest seem to be increasing over the last several years.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Cook says the entire state features good hunting, but deer numbers seem to be increasing in Alabama’s northwestern and southernmost counties.

Quick tip: Cook suggests that hunters look at Alabama’s Deer Rut Map at outdooralabama.com to help focus their efforts.

Season dates/bag limits: outdooralabama.com

Alaska

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

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

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: Unavailable

Overall outlook: State wildlife biologist Dan Eacker says recent production, general population trends and the relative abundance of older-class buck are currently unknown, as it’s difficult to estimate deer abundance in the rain forest across large areas.

“I would say, though, that we are coming off of a decently hard winter, and in talking to the Kodiak locals, they have observed the highest number of beach mortality sightings that they had seen in 30 years or so,” he said. “However, I think the populations continue to remain strong as you head south in southeastern Alaska.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “I would recommend Central POW for an alpine deer hunt, and South Admiralty Island also should be a good destination for a successful alpine deer hunt,” says Eacker. “I would avoid Kodiak and areas farther north, like Chichagof Island (although we don’t have flight data from Summer 2019), given the report from the locals and that winter tends to be more intense as you head north.”

Quick tip: “Hunters that work hard to hunt deer in the alpine or set up boat transportation to hunt the less inhabited islands will not only have a better chance of a successful hunt but will be guaranteed an outdoor experience of a lifetime,” Eacker said.

Season dates/bag limits: adfg.alaska.gov

Arizona

Species: Mule deer and Coues whitetails

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

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 7,652 mule deer bucks, 231 does; 8,493 Coues bucks

Overall outlook: Dustin Darveau, terrestrial wildlife specialist with the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Game Program, says most of Arizona is experiencing drought conditions, so fawn recruitment and general overall nutrition continue to be a concern in some areas.

“Coupled with the drought, several large-scale wildfires have occurred throughout many parts of the state, in both whitetail and mule deer habitats,” he says. “Most of these burn areas will rebound and provide increased early successional forage quality, but short-term impacts on the population, local densities, and access to hunting might be impacted. On average, statewide deer populations are remaining stable.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Darveau says some areas affected by large-scale wildfires might show increases in wildlife usage because of the natural regenerative effects of wildfire. However, many of those areas will also see increases in invasive vegetation growth and decreasing native habitat quality and availability. Glassing opportunities might be enhanced where thick vegetation has been removed, but that will also alter deer behavior.

Quick tip: “Understanding that the densities of deer throughout much of the state are lower than one would expect or experience in other states, one of the most important skills to hunt deer in Arizona is to develop solid glassing skills with the best optics you can afford,” Darveau says. “Understanding the habitat needs for the species of interest is also highly beneficial. Deer of the Southwest have their own unique characteristics, habitat needs, and behaviors.”

Season dates/bag limits: azgfd.com

Arkansas

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: About 900,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 188,143

Overall outlook: “The 2019-‘20 deer season was difficult for many hunters,” says Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “An extremely high mast production year in 2019 as well as prolonged flooding issues significantly impacted the 2019-‘20 harvest. However, things are looking promising for 2020-‘21.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Meeker says some areas affected by floods in recent years might see lower fawn recruitment.

Quick tip: “Do your homework early,” Meeker says. “A good place to start is to contact the AGFC biologist over the area that you intend to hunt. Information about AGFC WMAs can be found at agfc.com.”

Season dates/bag limits: agfc.com

California

Species: Mule deer and blacktails

Estimated population: 459,450 total (2019 estimate)

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 29,438 total (2019 estimate)

Overall outlook: Deer populations, recruitment and age-class structure can vary substantially in California, which is large and has diverse habitats.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Areas with recent fires or logging activity, which remove overstory trees, letting browse species grow.

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.ca.gov

Colorado

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 418,310 (total)

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 30,521 (total)

Overall outlook: “The deer populations in central Colorado are doing very well, and the deer populations in eastern Colorado are stable,” says Bradley Gabrielski, Colorado Parks and Wildlife communications center wildlife coordinator. “Mature bucks remain abundant across the western region, offering excellent hunting opportunities this fall. We are still showing buck-to-doe ratios above the statewide objective. The total buck rifle license recommendations from 2019 to 2020 are essentially the same for the state: 55,400. Colorado continues to be one of the premier mule deer hunting destinations in the West.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Gabrielski says most of the western part of the state has fantastic mule deer habitat that produces great hunting opportunities. Whitetail habitat and populations are best on the eastern plains, especially the river beds and bottoms of the South Platte River corridor and Arkansas River corridor. Most of the land on the Eastern Plains is private, however, which can make access to good whitetail hunting tough.

Quick tip: “One major aspect of having a successful hunt in Colorado is planning ahead,” says Gabrielski. “Conditions in Colorado can vary year to year, and hunters will always want to be sure they are prepared for the current year. For example, with the snowpack this year, conditions will be much different this fall compared to last fall when statewide we were suffering drought conditions.”

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

Connecticut

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 10,897

Overall outlook: Howard Kilpatrick, deer program biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, says deer populations are relatively stable in most regions of the state. Older age-class bucks can be found statewide, but hunters have better odds of shooting a mature buck in southwestern Connecticut.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Generally, deer management zones 2, 3 and 4a (north-central Connecticut) have the lowest populations, and zones 1, 5, 11 and 12 (the northwestern, northeastern, and southwestern and shoreline portions of the state, respectively) have higher populations, Kilpatrick says.

Quick tip: “Hunt forested areas with abundant acorns,” Kilpatrick says. “If acorns are absent, hunt alternative food sources like green fields.”

Season dates/bag limits: portal.ct.gov

A deer hunter kneeling in the snow with a deer.
Great late-season tracking snow helped George Hamilton tag this New England buck. George Hamilton

Delaware

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: mid-40,000s

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 16,969

Overall outlook: Eric Ness, deer biologist with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, says the state’s deer population is currently higher than management goals. To meet harvest objectives, Delaware offers one of the country’s longest archery seasons — five months — with gun seasons spread throughout that time. The state’s harvest structure — a limit of two antlered deer, one of which must have an outside antler spread of at least 15 inches — lets hunters shoot a buck but doesn’t place too much pressure on younger deer, resulting in an adequate number of older bucks.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “While Delaware is a small state, our harvest density (harvest by land area) is one of the highest in the nation,” says Ness. “Depending upon the type of hunt a person wants, I would recommend a different region of Delaware. The deer density is greatest in Delaware’s northernmost county, New Castle. However, this is also Delaware’s most developed county, so access can be limiting. On the southern end of Delaware, in Sussex County, you will find a rural area with interspersed agriculture fields and forested habitats.”

Quick tip: “Delaware’s archery season opens earlier than those in most states — Sept. 1 — so that first week of the season provides hunters with the chance to take a buck in velvet, which for many people is a unique opportunity. That said, it’s often quite warm, and the mosquitoes can be bothersome, so coming prepared for those conditions in the early season is key.”

Season dates/bag limits: eregulations.com/delaware

Florida

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: Unavailable

Overall outlook: Cory Morea, deer management program coordinator with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, says the statewide deer population remains stable, although there might be fluctuations at local levels.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Areas in northern and central Florida tend to contain higher-quality habitat to support deer growth and reproduction,” Morea says. “The soils in much of Florida are relatively sandy, and nutrients are leached out of the soil and not available for uptake by plants. Therefore, the quality of deer forage in much of Florida is lower than in other states.”

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

Season dates/bag limits: myfwc.com

Read More Deer Hunting Tips Here

Georgia

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 262,042

Overall outlook: “The deer population is stable and healthy across most of the state,” says Charlie Killmaster, state deer biologist with Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division. “Our mountain population is in poor shape, and there are a few agricultural areas of southern Georgia with a few too many (deer). Fawn recruitment is lower than expected this year. We’ll continue to monitor that situation and respond to it if necessary. Buck age structure is good, with more than a third of the antlered harvest at 3.5 years or older.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Killmaster says counties east of Atlanta have the highest consistent harvest in the state, including some good bucks. Deer populations in mountain counties — especially on U.S. Forest Service land — are well lower than desired densities.

Quick tip: “Try to stay downwind of where you anticipate deer to approach, and keep your movement at a minimum,” Killmaster says.

Season dates/bag limits: georgiawildlife.com

Idaho

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 250,000 to 360,000 mule deer; whitetail estimate unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 21,540 whitetails, 23,679 mule deer

Overall outlook: “The outlook statewide is improving and good overall,” says Rick Ward, deer and elk coordinator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Overwinter survival of radio-collared mule deer fawns was above the long-term average thanks to a mild winter. That means more bucks available to hunters this fall. Whitetail deer hunter success has been steadily increasing over the past several years, indicating a growing deer population. A mild 2019-‘20 winter in northern Idaho, where the bulk of the white-tailed deer live, bodes well for survival and hunting opportunity this fall as well.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Ward says whitetail hunters in northern Idaho have experienced very good success rates — 45 to 50 percent — the past few years, and that should continue in 2020. Conversely, some mule deer populations in central and southern Idaho have yet to recover from heavy snowfalls in 2016-‘17. The west-central area of the state (game-management units 22, 23, 24, 31, 32 and 32A) has been particularly slow to recover.

Quick tip: “Most mule deer in Idaho are highly migratory, and their location during the hunting season is very much dependent on weather conditions,” says Ward. “A mild fall means deer could still be on high-elevation summer range late into the hunting season. An early snow means deer could be moving onto transition ranges even early in the hunting season.”

Season dates/bag limits: idfg.idaho.gov

Illinois

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 153,174

Overall outlook: Peter Schlichting, deer project manager with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says the agency expects deer hunters to have another good season (harvests have ranged from 144,000 to 156,000 since 2013). The state experienced adequate rainfall in spring and a moderate early summer. Spring rains might have delayed planting, which could alter deer behavior and make some locations unsuitable for treestands or ground blinds. Schlichting encouraged hunters to scout more and have a backup plan.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Regional expectations vary, but all look promising for 2020-‘21,” Schlichting says. “The five-county restricted archery season remains in effect for Champaign, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt counties. In these counties, hunters are permitted to harvest only antlered deer during the first 15 days of archery season to reduce doe harvest and grow the population.”

Quick tip: “Maximize your luck by putting in the work — planning and scouting — before seasons open,” Schlichting says.

Season dates/bag limits: illinois.gov

Indiana

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 114,882

Overall outlook: “Last year’s harvest and other indicators of the deer population were generally up in most of the state,” says Joe Caudell, state deer biologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “The southern portion of the state had an EHD outbreak, so hunters will likely find that it takes a bit more time to harvest a deer this year in those areas that were hardest hit. In general, Indiana has a good distribution of older age-class deer with a relatively balanced sex ratio, so we often seen hunters taking a relatively large proportion of bucks that are 2.5 years or older.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Caudell said northern Indiana looks good again. Much of southern Indiana will be down somewhat because of the 2019 EHD outbreak.

Quick tip: Caudell says hunters can use the state’s annual White-tailed Deer Report to understand harvest pressure, harvest statistics by county, harvest on public lands, hidden gems and other facts about Indiana deer management. on.IN.gov/INDeerReport

Season dates/bag limits: in.gov

Iowa

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable, but steady to slightly increasing

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 93,964

Overall outlook: Tyler Harms, wildlife biometrician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the state experienced a 13 percent decline in harvest from 2018 to 2019. A large-scale EHD outbreak during Summer 2019 resulted in 1,927 deer mortalities reported from 63 counties. That likely decreased the fall deer population and caused the subsequent harvest decline. However, deer observations from the spring spotlight survey remained stable from 2019 to 2020, suggesting the impact of EHD on the spring population was marginal, and that the decreased fall harvest compensated for EHD-related mortality. Some areas of the state might experience residual lower deer numbers, including much of southern Iowa, where more than 80 percent of the EHD-related mortalities occurred. Still, the population in that area should recover in the next few years.

Chronic wasting disease continues to be a concern in Iowa. The DNR detected CWD in 44 additional deer in eight counties during the 2019 season, bringing the total number of CWD-positive deer to 90. Hunters can expect to see additional harvest opportunities in specific management zones near where CWD has been detected.

“Despite these disease concerns, our statewide deer population remains strong and within goal levels that not only provide our hunters with a quality experience but also is consistent with all stakeholder interests,” he said.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “As mentioned, hunters in south-central and southeastern Iowa might experience lower deer numbers due to residual effects of EHD,” says Harms. “However, these areas still remain as the best areas in regards to deer numbers and quality largely due to availability of suitable habitat. Northeastern Iowa also remains a good area for deer numbers. Counties in northeastern Iowa continue to be at the top of the list for total deer harvest.”

Quick tip: “With careful scouting, Iowa hunters can experience a quality deer hunting experience anywhere in the state,” says Harms. “I encourage hunters to take advantage of the additional harvest opportunities within our CWD and urban management zones to help us manage deer populations locally within these areas, and also to check your gear and hunting plans before heading to the field to ensure a safe hunting trip.”

Season dates/bag limits: iowadnr.gov

Kansas

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

Estimated population: 691,000 whitetails, 45,000 mule deer

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: Unavailable

Overall outlook: “Populations are holding fairly stable, and the proportion of (adult) bucks in the population surveys is trending stable to slightly increasing,” says Levi Jaster, big-game program coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “Chronic wasting disease continues to be a major concern in western Kansas, as we are seeing prevalence rates increase.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Jaster says deer management units 11 through 16 in southeastern Kansas have the highest deer densities. Units 3 and 7 have experienced some population declines.

Quick tip: “Don’t be tied to a single hunting strategy,” says Jaster. “Be flexible and ready to employ tree stands, ground blinds or spot-and-stalk as situations warrant.”

Season dates/bag limits: ksoutdoors.com

Read Next: The 7 Biggest Myths of Hunting Early-Season Deer

Kentucky

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 148,395

Overall outlook: “Kentucky’s deer population is looking great for the upcoming season,” says Kyle Sams, deer program biologist and acting deer and elk program coordinator with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Coming off the second-highest harvest total on record, population models continue to trend upward. Hunters in Kentucky do a fantastic job of letting the 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 2020 hotspots: Sams says every region of the state has the potential to produce big bucks. Eastern Kentucky is rebounding well since a hemorrhagic disease outbreak in 2017. The areas with the most deer and higher harvest rates include the Bluegrass Region, in the central and northern part of the state, and the Green River and Purchase regions, in western Kentucky.

Quick tip: “Most folks can’t wait to get into the woods to hunt,” Sams says. “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

Louisiana

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: A minimum of 500,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 177,300

Overall outlook: Johnathan Bordelon, deer program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, says the outlook for 2020 is mixed. Some areas hit by the historic flooding of 2019 are bouncing back, but an entire age group of deer was lost in those areas because of low fawn recruitment. Deer harvests during 2019 in affected parishes were average to below average. Hunting prospects in the rest of the state look promising. Harvests during 2019 in areas not affected by the flood were strong.

“It might be hard to top 2019 in some of last season’s hotspots, but there’s no reason to think that there will be a major drop-off,” he said.

Louisiana continues to harvest a good percentage of older bucks while limiting the number of 1.5-year-old bucks taken. In fact, 1.5-year-old bucks make up less than 20 percent of the state’s deer harvest, where recorded.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Much of the western and north-central part of the state looks promising,” says Bordelon. “This comprises a large percentage of the state’s mixed pine and hardwood forests. The down spots will be the portions of Louisiana impacted by continued river flooding. After a record-setting flood in 2019, which extended to more than 200 days on some river gauges, flooding has impacted the same areas through early June of this year. That’s about two months shorter than last year but still unwelcomed considering the increased frequency and duration in recent years. Lands along the rivers were once linked to the highest harvest rates in Louisiana, but recent floods have driven down those harvest rates.”

Quick tip: “Louisiana has a diverse breeding period with a range of late September through January, depending on the location,” says Bordelon. “Familiarize yourself with the peak breeding times for your area to increase your chance of viewing and harvesting deer.”

Season dates/bag limits: wlf.louisiana.gov

A deer hunter kneeling in the grass beside a deer.
Brian McCuin with a Northeast bow kill. Brian McCuin

Maine

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 300,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 28,323

Overall outlook: Nathan R. Bieber, deer specialist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, says deer populations in central and southern Maine — traditionally the state’s top areas — are stable or increasing. Deer numbers in western, northern and Downeast Maine are stable but low compared to those in the rest of the state. Deer in those regions are affected more by severe winters, and habitat is less productive.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “We’ll be issuing very high numbers of antlerless deer permits this year in southern and central Maine, which will likely include quite a few bonus permits, which allow for the harvest of an additional antlerless deer,” says Bieber. “There will be a lot of opportunity for hunters in these areas and a lot of flexibility to take a buck or a doe or, for those with bonus permits, both.”

Quick tip: “While it is legal to hunt unposted land in Maine, it’s always a better idea to ask permission,” says Bieber. “You may get good information from landowners about local deer if you take a moment to ask permission and to introduce yourself.”

Season dates/bag limits: maine.gov

Maryland

Species: Whitetail and sika deer

Estimated population: 240,000 whitetails, 10,000 to 15,000 sika deer

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 76,010 whitetails, 3,447 sika deer

Overall outlook: Brian Eyler, deer project leader with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, says the state’s deer population and annual harvests remain steady, so the 2020-‘21 season should be on par with those of recent years.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Maryland’s Eastern Shore typically holds the largest-bodied deer, Eyler said.

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

A dead deer covered in snow.
Heavy snow on opening day in Massachusetts, resulted in phenomenal deer hunting. Gerry Bethge

Massachusetts

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: More than 100,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 13,920

Overall outlook: “The outlook looks great,” says David Stainbrook, deer and moose project coordinator with the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “The past two years have been record years for harvest. We have an excellent buck age structure, so there are plenty of mature bucks out there. It is surprising how many large bucks come out of Massachusetts each year when we don’t exactly have the most productive soils. However, we try to keep our population from being too high and overbrowsing their habitat, so deer are very healthy and can devote a lot of resources to antler growth.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Stainbrook says there are promising areas throughout the state. Deer densities range from 12 to 18 deer per square mile in most of the state where there’s adequate hunting access, to more than 50 deer per square mile in areas with limited hunting access, such as parts of in eastern Massachusetts.

Quick tip: “Venture farther into the woods than other hunters and you will likely see more deer,” says Stainbrook. “We see pockets of higher deer numbers as you get over a mile or so from roads and parking areas.”

Season dates/bag limits: mass.gov

Michigan

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: About 364,000

Overall outlook: Ashley Autenrieth, deer program biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says most of the state experienced a fairly mild winter. Further, good spring conditions and good growing conditions during summer have biologists anticipating an average to increased 2020 harvest. Plus, many areas feature good age classes of bucks.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Areas of good soil types are more productive than areas of poor soil types, and in the same fashion, areas of good habitat tend to have more deer than areas of poorer habitat quality,” says Autenrieth. “Typically, the farther north a person goes, the fewer deer they’ll also encounter. This has a lot to do with winter impacts as you go farther north. That’s important to keep in mind, especially in the Upper Peninsula, where deer numbers can be much lower in certain areas that have high winter impacts.”

Quick tip: Autenrieth says people seeking areas to hunt should look at MiHunt (michigan.gov/mihunt).

“It can help you locate public land and helps you identify cover types and openings, which can give you a great head start,” she says. “If you’re able to scout prior to the season, that’s great, but if you can’t, at least try and get to the area you hope to hunt a day or two days early so you can check things out and give yourself time to see where the trails and patterns of movement are.”

Season dates/bag limits: michigan.gov

Minnesota

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 183,637

Overall outlook: “In general, deer populations are stable to slightly increasing in most of the state, with the exception of north-central and north-eastern Minnesota, where deer populations are lower and struggle to recover from harsh winters,” says Barbara Keller, big-game program supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Overall, there are more opportunities to harvest deer this year, so we expect harvest to be slightly higher in 2020 compared to 2019.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Keller says southeastern and central parts of Minnesota have the highest deer numbers. Northeastern and north-central Minnesota generally have lower deer numbers, and hunters have a tougher time there.

Quick tip: “This year, the four-day early antlerless season that takes place in mid-October will be open in more areas of the state,” says Keller. “This season allows hunters to harvest up to five antlerless deer ahead of the breeding season — an excellent opportunity for herd management.”

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.state.mn.us

Mississippi

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1.475 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: About 220,000

Overall outlook: William T. McKinley, deer program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, says the state’s deer harvest has been down for the past three years, but overall herd numbers seem to be stable or increasing. Abundant rainfall has resulted in lots of browse, and Mississippi deer appear to be in good health.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “The South Delta region of Mississippi experienced record flooding in 2019 and 2020,” McKinley says. “Approximately 750,000 acres were inundated for over five months in 2019. The deer herd was negatively impacted in number and health.”

Quick tip: McKinley says data indicates that 74 percent of the state’s buck harvest consists of deer 3.5 years old or older.

Season dates/bag limits: mdwfp.com

Missouri

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1.4 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 285,873

Overall outlook: “The 2020 deer season in Missouri should be a good one,” says Jason Isabelle, cervid program supervisor for the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Deer numbers are stable or increasing in the vast majority of the state. The severe hemorrhagic disease outbreak that occurred in 2012 took its toll on deer numbers throughout much of central and northern Missouri. Since then, however, deer numbers have rebounded, and the population is fully recovered in most counties. In southern Missouri, the deer population has been slowly increasing for some time now, and for the vast majority of counties in the region, deer numbers are about where we’d like them to be. In many central and northern Missouri counties, we have an antler-point restriction in place, resulting in an increased age-structure of the buck segment of the population. As such, these counties typically provide hunters with a greater opportunity to harvest an older buck than counties that do not have the APR.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Isabelle says deer numbers look good throughout most of Missouri. Extreme northwestern Missouri might be the exception, as the deer population there is lower than the objective because of the hemorrhagic disease outbreak and habitat loss.

“This part of the state has experienced considerable conversion of grassland to row crop agriculture, which has resulted in a loss of cover and a reduction in the number of deer that the landscape can support,” he says.

Quick tip: “To be consistently successful, hunters should be proficient with their gun or bow, spend time scouting before the season, and hunt as smart and hard as possible,” says Isabelle. “Knowing how to access and hunt your stands without alerting deer and only hunting when conditions (such as wind direction) are right will go a long way toward allowing you to have enjoyable and successful hunts throughout the deer season.”

Season dates/bag limits: huntfish.mdc.mo.gov

A deer hunter kneeling behind a large deer.
The author with an upper Midwest 8-pointer. Brian Lovett

Montana

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 325,000 to 350,000 mule deer, 195,000 to 220,000 whitetails

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 50,810 mule deer, 40,845 whitetails

Overall outlook: Brian Wakeling, chief of the Game Management Bureau for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says Winter 2019-‘20 was relatively mild by Montana standards, so overwinter deer survival was good throughout much of the state. Further, the 2020 fawn crop is expected to be good, and good spring weather and an early summer should have created favorable conditions for antler growth.

Northwestern and west-central Montana report stable mule deer populations compared to those of 2019, with improved whitetail populations. Much of the rest of the state is reporting good mule deer numbers. Whitetails seem to be trending favorably throughout much of the state, especially near agricultural areas.

“Despite this good news, the prevalence of older age-class bucks may not be as high as many hunters might desire due to prior winters’ severity,” he says. “Regardless, because Montana has such an interspersion of rugged, inaccessible areas and other areas that provide refuges for hunted bucks, there are always older animals around. The challenge is finding them.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Wakeling says central and eastern Montana look better this year. Northwestern and west-central Montana have experienced some tough winters recently and might not be bouncing back as quickly as areas to the east. Still, western Montana probably has better access and quantity of public land than areas farther east.

“Frankly, we are in the good old days of mule deer hunting right now.”

Quick tip: Wakeling says: “One of our regional wildlife managers, John Ensign, summed it up well: ‘Secure access early if possible. Do some homework about the areas you want to spend time and effort in, and pre-scout the area if possible.’”

Season dates/bag limits: fwp.mt.gov

Nebraska

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 11,220 mule deer, 49,090 whitetails

Overall outlook: “Overall, the outlook for both species of deer is good,” says Luke Meduna, wildlife biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “Whitetails are stable to slowly increasing statewide but are still about 20 percent below the all-time highs of the late 2000s. Mule deer populations have been brought down in areas with high depredation complaints and are stable to increasing elsewhere. Buck age structure for both species is at or near all-time highs, with 40 percent of the whitetail buck harvest and 50 percent of the mule deer buck harvest being 3.5 or older.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Meduna says many units, especially those in western Nebraska, have seen sufficient increases in whitetail populations to warrant increased antlerless permits. Many central and southern units have seen minor decreases in mule deer, and corresponding decreases in permits have followed.

Quick tip: “Don’t overlook any parcel,” says Meduna. “Big bucks don’t get that way by living in places everyone looks. Skip the obvious places, and hunt the odd spots.”

Season dates/bag limits: outdoornebraska.gov

Nevada

Species: Mule deer

Estimated population: 93,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 6,454

Overall outlook: Cody Schroeder, mule deer staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, says Nevada experienced a mild winter, so fawn recruitment was slightly higher than average. However, dry conditions during spring and early summer will likely hamper antler growth. Overall deer survival is average.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Schroeder says Management Area 7 looks promising. Management Area 3 has experienced a downward trend in hunter success.

Quick tip: “Bring the best optics you can afford, and use them often,” says Schroeder. “Try to get high up on ridgelines or high points, and glass brushy hillsides early in the morning or late evenings.”

Season dates/bag limits: eregulations.com/nevada

New Hampshire

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 12,306

Overall outlook: “The season outlook is very good,” says Dan Bergeron, deer project leader with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “We’re coming off another high harvest year and good fall food production. Population trends continue to increase or remain stable in most of the state, and we continue to see more than 50 percent of our adult buck harvest comprised of 2.5-plus-year-old deer.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Bergeron says the entire state looks good.

Quick tip: “Scouting is key to success in New Hampshire, particularly in more northern areas of the state, where habitat quality and deer densities are lower and the terrain is more rugged,” says Bergeron.

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.state.nh.us

New Jersey

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 147,165

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 45,650

Overall outlook: Carole Stanko, chief of the Bureau of Wildlife Management for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, says the 2020 season looks promising, with plenty of deer throughout the state.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “The majority of New Jersey has very productive habitat with the exception of the Pinelands, so high densities of deer are found almost everywhere,” says Stanko.

Quick tip: “Although New Jersey has more than 700,000 acres of state open space plus federal lands, there is a lot of private property in need of deer management, so befriend a landowner,” says Stanko.

Season dates/bag limits: state.nj.us

New Mexico

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

Estimated population: 80,000 to 100,000 (all species)

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 10,671 (all species)

Overall outlook: Orrin Duvuvuei, deer and pronghorn biologist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, says 2020 precipitation has been lower than average, but fawn recruitment from the previous few years should maintain a stable overall population. Some local deer populations show signs of growth, and overall deer numbers are stable to increasing throughout New Mexico. Most units have an even age structure of bucks, including older deer.

“New Mexico’s deer population fluctuates with moisture conditions throughout the state,” he says. “Long-term droughts beginning in the early 2000s contributed to lower mule deer populations compared to historic numbers, especially in the southern half of New Mexico. Average precipitation events in recent years have been appropriate to maintain stable population trajectories throughout most of the state. The precipitation, coupled with recent beneficial wildfires, has improved habitat conditions in many areas throughout New Mexico.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Mule deer populations in northern portions of New Mexico are steadily growing in response to good moisture conditions coupled with recent wildfires that created beneficial deer habitat,” says Duvuvuei. “The mule deer herds in the Jemez Mountains and the Pecos area of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are showing signs of growth in recent years, and some big bucks are harvested annually in these areas. The Sand Hills country in east-central New Mexico has a healthy mule deer population, and it consistently produces larger-than-average bucks each year. Several Boone and Crockett-class bucks are killed each year in the north-central part of the state in game-management units 2B, 2C, and 4. Mule deer populations in these units are largely migratory, with many deer spending their summers in the high country in Colorado and wintering in the lower elevations in New Mexico. Populations in portions of southern New Mexico are down slightly compared to historic levels because of long-term drought conditions. However, the recent increased moisture has helped these populations start to rebound.”

Quick tip: “To have an enjoyable deer hunt with a higher chance of success, hunters should hike at least a half-mile (preferably farther) from the nearest road and glass recent burns and the edges of openings,” says Duvuvuei.

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.state.nm.us

New York

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1 million to 1.2 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 224,190

Overall outlook: According to New York’s 2020 deer hunting forecast, the state experienced a mild winter, and deer survival was strong. Deer sighting rates by bowhunters in 2019 suggest an increasing population. Officials expect this fall’s buck harvest to be similar to or slightly higher than the 2019 harvest. With new population objectives and increasing deer populations in some areas, the state has prescribed an increase in deer management permits and hopes that hunters respond by increasing the antlerless harvest by about 10 percent.

“The forage base greened up well in spring, and conditions were great during fawning season,” the report said. “However, by early July, most of northern and eastern New York had experienced several weeks of abnormally dry conditions. While not problematic yet, if the dry conditions persist and worsen, fawn weights and adult male antler sizes may be a bit lower than average in those areas this fall. Still, hunters should anticipate great deer hunting opportunities throughout New York State.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Jeremy Hurst, big-game unit leader for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, says central and western New York, and suburban areas, are typically productive.

“Hunters seeking solitude and freedom to cover lots of ground will enjoy the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York and the Catskill Mountains in southeastern New York, as they offer thousands of square miles of wilderness hunting,” he says. “Hunters who want to maximize their success should explore the western Finger Lakes region or seek access to hunt public or private lands in and surrounding various suburban areas throughout the state. For hunters seeking the greatest prospects for large-antlered bucks, the Lake Ontario Plains of western New York is a good option. Finally, for hunters seeking to extend their time afield, deer hunting runs through the end of December in Westchester County (bowhunting only) and through January in Suffolk County.”

Quick tip: “Many New York hunters are choosing to let young bucks go and watch them grow,” says Hurst. “You can, too.”

Season dates/bag limits: dec.ny.gov

North Carolina

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1.1 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 161,941

Overall outlook: Jonathan Shaw, state deer biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, says deer numbers are increasing in the state’s western zone, and stable in the central and northwestern zones.

“Up to this past year, we’ve seen declining trends in northeastern and southeastern zones, but with changes in bag limits in 2018, we hope herds are stabilizing somewhat in those zones,” he says.

Only 31.2 percent of bucks harvested the past three years were 1.5 years old. Two-and-a-half-year-old deer comprised 37.9 percent of harvested bucks, and 3.5-, 4.5- and 5.5-year-olds made up 21.3, 6.8 and 2.8 percent, respectively.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Large bucks are consistently brought to the Dixie Deer Classic from the north-central counties,” Shaw said. “In general, as mentioned, populations have declined over the past decade in the eastern part of the state — most notably the northeastern zone.”

Quick tip: Shaw suggested that hunters know the timing of peak rut in the areas they intend to hunt and plan their outings accordingly. Estimated peak rut dates can be found here: ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Hunting/Documents/Deer/Deer-Rut-Dates-2020.pdf

Season dates/bag limits: ncwildlife.org

North Dakota

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 29,730 whitetails, 7,518 mule deer

Overall outlook: Bill Jensen, big-game biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, says the state has stable to increasing numbers of deer.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Areas south and west of the Missouri River look particularly promising, Jensen said.

Quick tip: “North Dakota is over 90 percent private land,” Jensen said. “Scout and talk to landowners well before the season opens.”

Otherwise, the state has abundant land in the Public Land Open To Sportsmen, or PLOTS, program.

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

Ohio

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 184,468

Overall outlook: “Harvest regulation changes will likely mean a slightly larger statewide harvest in 2020,” says Michael J. Tonkovich, deer program administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “While hunters will see a bag limit reduction (three to two) in 15 southeastern and east-central counties, this will be offset by changes elsewhere. Hunters will be allowed to use the reduced-cost deer management permit (good for an antlerless deer only) in an additional 15 counties this fall. Statewide, the proportion of mature (3.5 years old or older) bucks in the harvest continues to increase, falling just short of 30 percent of the reported antlered buck harvest last season.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Surveys in 2019 indicated more hunters throughout most of the state believed their hunting areas had “just the right number of deer” compared to 2015. Exceptions included a large block of counties in the southeastern Ohio and smaller blocks in the northeastern and southwestern portions of the state.

Quick tip: “Want to make a difference in deer management in your state?” Tonkovich asked. “Take time to complete a survey if you receive one.”

Season dates/bag limits: ohiodnr.gov

A deer with a rifle leaning against it.
Muzzleloader seasons provide excellent opportunities to fill your tags. Brian Lovett

Oklahoma

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 600,000 to 750,000 (all species)

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: unavailable. The 2018-‘19 harvest was 109,260.

Overall outlook: Dallas Barber, big-game biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, says deer populations are increasing throughout much of the state.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “There aren’t really any areas that stand out more than another,” says Barber. “We have been seeing quality bucks harvested from all corners of the state.”

Quick tip: “Pressure on public lands can make deer do some funky things,” says Barber. “Instead of sitting over an ag plot, place yourself between that food source and a bedding area. Bucks like to stage in between before entering a field well after shooting light is gone.”

Season dates/bag limits: wildlifedepartment.com

Oregon

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

Estimated population: Unavailable. Mule deer population estimates have declined slightly the past five years, especially after harsh winters in 2016-‘17 and 2017-‘18, according to Justin Dion, assistant wildlife biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s game program. Populations have decreased slightly from 2019 across mule deer range, with about 60 percent of units showing declines in estimated population numbers.

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: about 34,350 (total harvest, all species)

Overall outlook: Blacktail and whitetail deer relatively stable,” says Dion. “Mule deer are down in some areas since severe winters in 2016-‘17 and 2017-‘18 but may have seen a bump in condition as a result of an extremely green fall and early winter in 2019. Mature bucks are available in all areas.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Dion says 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.

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: eregulations.com/oregon

Pennsylvania

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 389,431

Overall outlook: Bret Wallingford, deer biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, says deer populations are doing well in all of the state’s wildlife management units. Populations are considered stable in 21 units and increasing in two. Productivity is stable in 17 units and declining in six. However, population objectives in those units are being met, so biologists are not currently concerned about productivity. In 2019, 67 percent of Pennsylvania’s buck harvest was comprised of deer 2.5 years old or older — the highest proportion ever. As a result, hunters have a good chance of encountering older bucks during 2020.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Pennsylvania is pretty diverse, and 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, and there are some considerably older bucks in those areas. But getting into them is difficult, and getting 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. Deer populations are stable or increasing in all WMUs, and if you look at recent harvests, plenty of deer have come out of those units. But as is always the case, within the WMU, there are some places that have more deer than others. This is where it pays to seek out landowner permission early and do your scouting to find what parts of the landscape are being used by deer during different times of the hunting season.”

Quick tip: “Find where you want to hunt, do the scouting, and have multiple places to hunt during different parts of the day and when the wind changes,” says Wallingford.

Season dates/bag limits: pgc.pa.gov

Rhode Island

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 2,285

Overall outlook: Dylan Ferreira, whitetail deer and New England cottontail project leader with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, says the state’s deer harvest has increased the past three years. The harvest of yearling bucks has decreased, increasing the numbers of older bucks killed.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Northern portions of Rhode Island often see the highest deer harvests, says Ferreira.

Quick tip: “Don’t be intimidated to ask private property owners to hunt on their land,” says Ferreira. “You will get more no’s then yeses, but you don’t know if you don’t ask. Written permission is required to deer hunt on private property even if it’s not posted.”

Season dates/bag limits: eregulations.com/rhodeisland

South Carolina

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 730,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 193,073

Overall outlook: “The outlook for the 2020 season is good, with a slightly increasing population and harvest trend over the last few years,” says Charles Ruth, big-game program coordinator for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Ruth says Game Zone 2, which encompasses the central and western piedmont of the state, has considerable public hunting opportunities, with good deer numbers and wildlife management unit land widely interspersed with private land.

Quick tip: “The peak of the rut throughout most of South Carolina is mid-October through mid-November, with approximately 80 percent of does breeding between Oct. 6 and Nov. 16,” says Ruth.

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.sc.gov

South Dakota

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 340,500 whitetails, 58,900 mule deer

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 44,100 whitetails, 6,600 mule deer

Overall outlook: Steve Griffin, wildlife biologist for South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, says preliminary data indicates a slight overall decrease in whitetail and muley populations. Recent production information isn’t available.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Griffin says deer hunting can be good anywhere in the state, provided hunters scout before they hunt.

Quick tip: “With most of South Dakota consisting of private land, it is very important to obtain permission before applying in South Dakota,” says Griffin. “This permission before arriving in South Dakota will make your hunt more enjoyable and is vital in maintaining positive landowner/sportsman relationships.”

Also, Griffin urged hunters to be aware of new chronic wasting disease regulations: gfp.sd.gov/chronic-wasting-disease

Season dates/bag limits: gfp.sd.gov

Tennessee

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 135,138

Overall outlook: James D. Kelly, deer management program leader for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, says prospects for the 2020 season are promising. Further, the percentage of harvested bucks 2.5 years old or older continues to increase.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Kelly says he expects status quo this year throughout Tennessee.

“Cheatham Wildlife Management Area is a popular WMA that sees quite a bit of success and has a mixture of quota and non-quota hunts,” he says. “We have growing deer herds on Hiwassee Refuge and Yuchi Refuge that we would like to reduce, so these areas would be good ones for hunters wanting to harvest antlerless deer. Due to its small size, Yuchi Refuge has all quota hunts, so a hunter will have to apply for those. Hiwassee Refuge also has quota hunts but does have a non-quota archery hunt.”

Quick tip: “Wear plenty of tick spray,” says Kelly. “Also, we would encourage public-land hunters to try one of the many hunting apps available to confidently explore the entire piece of property without worrying about going onto the neighbor’s property.”

Season dates/bag limits: tn.gov/twra

Texas

Species: Whitetails and mule deer

Estimated population: 5.5 million whitetails, 230,000 mule deer

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 846,330 whitetails, 15,201 mule deer

Overall outlook: Alan Cain, white-tailed deer program leader for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, says the state’s whitetail population continues to see positive long-term growth. Much of Texas received timely precipitation in late April through early June, helping many areas recover from dry conditions in fall and winter 2019. Vegetation has responded well, with an abundance of quality forbs and an explosion of new growth on shrubs, both of which are critical for good deer nutrition. Those habitat conditions have set the stage for good early antler growth, and fawn recruitment numbers are looking good. Overall, hunters can expect another favorable season.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: The Edwards Plateau, in central Texas, has the state’s highest deer population: about 2.37 million deer. Numbers will likely be down in 2020 because of an extensive 2019 anthrax outbreak in management units 4 and 5, in the western portion of the region. Localized mortality reached 90 percent in some areas, but mortality loss wasn’t uniform, and many ranchers reported only a few deer fatalities. In some cases, the losses brought populations in line with the natural carrying capacity of the native rangeland. That should result in healthier deer and hopefully more nutrition to help bucks maximize antler production.

“Despite the 2019 anthrax outbreak and population impacts, there are still abundant deer throughout the majority of the region, and hunters looking for opportunities to see lots of deer when afield should put the Hill Country on the priority list to hunt this fall,” says Cain. “Hunter success in this region runs about 76 percent, with an estimated 12.70 deer harvested per 1,000 acres in 2019.”

Quick tip: “Since most hunting in Texas is on private lands, improving and enhancing habitats on the land you hunt will maximize its attractiveness to deer and hopefully improve your hunting experience and success,” says Cain.

Season dates/bag limits: tpwd.texas.gov

Utah

Species: Mule deer

Estimated population: Just more than 319,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 26,000

Overall outlook: “2019 trends were down for deer,” says Covy Jones, big-game program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “Severe drought was followed by a harsh winter, and we lost a lot of deer. Deer look better this year, but we are still suffering the consequences of 2019.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Jones says areas in the central part of the state were not as affected as much by weather as southern and northern units.

Quick tip: “There is no substitute for time in the field,” Jones says.

Season dates/bag limits: wildlife.utah.gov

Vermont

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 143,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 16,550

Overall outlook: Nick Fortin, deer project leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, says Vermont’s deer population is generally stable. The abundance of older bucks has been higher the past two to three years, and that should continue in 2020.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: All regions throughout the state should be similar to 2019, Fortin said.

Quick tip: “Scout multiple hunting spots to give yourself some options, as deer behavior and movement patterns can change dramatically during the season,” says Fortin.

Season dates/bag limits: vtfishandwildlife.com

Virginia

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: 1.083 million

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 208,067

Overall outlook: Matt Knox, deer project coordinator with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, says the state’s deer numbers should be very similar to those of previous years, and he doesn’t expect a major increase or decrease in the statewide harvest. During the past decade, the annual deer kill has averaged about 209,000 animals.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: The state continues to maintain very liberal deer seasons in the Northern Piedmont region. Deer numbers in the Southern Piedmont were hit hard by hemorrhagic disease in 2014 but have mostly recovered, and the overall kill there has remained stable for the past three decades. Deer populations and harvest numbers in the Tidewater region have been increasing the past five years. Whitetail herds on private land across much of western Virginia have been fairly stable for two-plus decades. Deer management on public lands in western Virginia continues to be a challenge, Knox says.

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,” says Knox. “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

Washington

Species: Mule deer, blacktails, and whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 27,187 (all species)

Overall outlook: Sara Hansen, statewide deer specialist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, says annual monitoring and harvest data indicate most deer populations throughout the state are generally stable. Several mule deer populations in the southern portion of the Cascade Mountains in central Washington have experienced declines recently.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “Northeastern Washington (District 1) continues to be a popular area for hunting whitetails, and the harvest this coming season is expected to be similar to last year,” says Hansen. “Chelan and Okanogan counties in the northern portion of the Cascades in central Washington remain the most productive areas for mule deer.”

Quick tip: Hansen encouraged hunters to check the department’s Covid-19 page for the latest information about changes that might occur because of the pandemic: wdfw.wa.gov/about/covid-19-updates.

Season dates/bag limits: wdfw.wa.gov

West Virginia

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: About 500,000

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 99,437

Overall outlook: “The overall outlook for deer is very good,” says Christopher W. Ryan, supervisor of game management services with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “The population across most of the state is stable and near its management objective.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Ryan says the southern part of West Virginia is known for producing older age-class bucks. Four West Virginia counties only allow archery hunting. No areas are particularly down.

Quick tip: “A lot of the fall deer movement in the Appalachians is controlled by the presence or absence of acorns,” says Ryan. “Hunters that scout in the fall will be a lot more successful than others.”

Season dates/bag limits: wvdnr.gov

Wisconsin

Species: Whitetails

Estimated population: Unavailable

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 291,023

Overall outlook: Kevin Wallenfang, big-game ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says prospects for 2020 look very good.

“While the nine-day gun harvest was down due to several factors in 2019, most other seasons were up compared to 2018,” he says. “Those deer that didn’t get shot during the gun season are out there for this year. The deer numbers in many units are trending upward or were already very high, but that is not statewide, as always.

“Our hunters continue to annually harvest a lot of older bucks, (and that) continues to be seen in the record books, and our aging data indicates that our deer herd has more older-aged deer than in the past. With lots of deer and fewer hunters, deer are surviving longer.”

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: Wallenfang says Wisconsin’s farmland regions have the highest deer populations and offer the most antlerless hunting opportunities. Numbers are spottier in the forest regions, but those areas still offer good hunting for people who spend time seeking it.

Quick tip: “Deer hunting is challenging, and the more time and effort you put into it, the more likely you are to be successful,” says Wallenfang. “If you aren’t seeing deer in your favorite spot, it might be time to move, because habitat changes, and that is going to impact deer numbers.”

Season dates/bag limits: dnr.wi.gov

Wyoming

Species: Mule deer and whitetails

Estimated population: 345,800 mule deer, 91,200 whitetails

Fall 2019-‘20 harvest: 24,200 mule deer, 18,000 whitetails

Overall outlook: Grant Frost, senior wildlife biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, says Wyoming has experienced small but steady declines in deer populations and harvests the past several years. However, older bucks should be represented well in most herds.

Potential Fall 2020 hotspots: “The very northeastern and southwestern corners have reduced licenses this year,” Frost says. “The remainder of the state is about the same.”

Quick tip: “Study maps, Google Earth and various mapping programs or apps to find spots away from roads, and then use your legs to get away from the roads and crowds,” says Frost.

Season dates/bag limits: wgfd.wyo.gov