A successful year for Vermont deer hunters in 2020

Nick Mayer of Lincoln, Vt., with the 190-pound, 14-point buck he took in Addison County in 2020
Nick Mayer of Lincoln, Vt., with the 190-pound, 14-point buck he took in Addison County in 2020. Photo provided by Nick Mayer

MONTPELIER, Vt. – Final deer harvest numbers will not be available for a few more weeks, but the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says the final tally will be around 18,000 deer, the second highest total since 2000. Those deer will provide approximately 3.6 million servings of local, nutritious venison.

The archery season harvest, which will be close to 5,800 deer, will be a new all-time record for that season. Several changes to archery hunting regulations took effect in 2020, including a longer season, allowing the use of crossbows by all archery hunters and an increased bag limit. These changes were intended to increase archery participation and the harvest. However, some of the increase was likely due to a spike in participation related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hunters weren’t quite as successful during the regular firearm and muzzleloader seasons, but final harvest numbers for those seasons will be close to or above average for the past 10 years.

“Fewer bucks were harvested than in the previous four years, but the final number will be near or above the 10-year average of 8,857,” said Nick Fortin, the department’s deer project leader.

“Hunting conditions were challenging this year. Weather conditions, food availability, and possibly other factors limited deer movement in November and December and made it difficult for hunters to locate deer. The new one buck annual limit likely also contributed to the lower buck harvest.”

The primary goal of Vermont’s deer management strategy is to keep the deer herd stable, healthy, and in balance with available habitat. “Maintaining an appropriate number of deer on the landscape ensures deer and the habitats that support them remain in good condition and productive,” said Fortin.

The 2020 White-tailed Deer Harvest Report with final numbers will be on Fish & Wildlife’s website in early March. Beginning in late March, department biologists will be holding informational hearings to share biological information and to listen to any information people wish to share.

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