Report: Hunters Killing More Mature Bucks

Americans have been killing more mature whitetail bucks the past few years than at any other time in history. That’s both good and bad.

American deer hunters are killing the highest-ever percentage of bucks age 3½ years old and older, according to data gathered by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) for inclusion in its 2015 Whitetail Report.

That’s the good news.

Data indicate that for the 2013-14 season, (the most recent season with compete deer harvest data available from all states), 34 percent of bucks harvested in the states that collect mature buck age data. That statistic is up from 32 percent the season before, and significantly higher from a decade before in the 2003-04 season, when only 23 percent of the national buck harvest was mature.

“This is a testament to how far we’ve come as hunters in the past decade,” said Kip Adams, QDMA’s Director of Education and Outreach, who compiles the organization’s annual Whitetail Report. “More hunters are choosing to protect yearling bucks, and they are being rewarded by seeing and killing more of them as mature animals.”

The gains have been made while the percentage of yearling bucks (1½ years old) in the harvest has steadily declined, reaching a record-low of 36 percent.

The five states with the lowest percentage of yearling bucks in the antlered buck harvest, according to QDMA's Whitetail Report, are also the top-five states in percentage of mature bucks: Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas.

Now for the not-so-good news: Though the age structure of the buck harvest is improving, total numbers of bucks killed by hunters are on the decline in several states. Nationally, the total buck harvest declined 4 percent from an estimated 2.85 million in 2012 to 2.74 million in 2013.

“Wisconsin's buck harvest declined 26 percent during the past decade, Minnesota’s dropped 27 percent, and Iowa’s plummeted 43 percent,” said Adams. “These are big declines, and hunters are definitely taking notice.”

The 2015 Whitetail Report explores the factors involved, including hemorrhagic disease (EHD) outbreaks, harsh weather, habitat loss and over-harvest.

“There is good news and not-so-good news in this year's Whitetail Report, and that’s exactly why we monitor and report trends in the whitetail harvest," said Lindsay Thomas Jr., QDMA's Director of Communications. “It's particularly important for hunters and the hunting industry to be aware of threats to the whitetail resource, so we'll continue to keep those on our radar.”

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