Pennsylvania deer hunters harvested 376,810 whitetails during the 2021-2022 season. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s estimates, that’s a 13 percent decrease compared to the 2020-21 season, when a whopping 435,180 deer were taken.
That high tally wasn’t easily matched, however, as the 2020-21 season saw the highest deer harvest for Pennsylvania hunters in the last 16 years. This high harvest was generally attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many hunters spent more time afield during the lockdown. Outdoorsmen and women in the state also tended to stay closer to home in their local woods due to travel closures and concerns.
Last season’s deer harvest falls more in line with the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, and PGC deer and elk section supervisor David Stainbrook said the recent 13 percent decrease is not cause for concern.
According to Stainbrook, 22 percent of Pennsylvania deer hunters took a buck last year. That’s far better than in years past, and it’s also in line with the state’s four-year average for bucks taken by hunters. As an example, only 16 percent of Pennsylvania hunters collected a buck during the 1987-88 season, and in 2007-08, just 15 percent of hunters tagged a deer with antlers.
“When corrected by the number of hunters, success rates are higher today than in the past, even with antler-point restrictions,” Stainbrook noted. “That our hunters are able to replicate that level of harvest speaks to just how sustainable our deer population is in Pennsylvania.”
Larger and more mature bucks also made up a sizable portion of the 2021-22 Pennsylvania deer harvest. The PGC says 62 percent of the bucks were at least 2.5-years old, while 38 percent of antlered deer were young bucks. This is a complete reversal of the buck harvest from 20 years ago, when the majority of bucks harvested by Pennsylvanians were 1.5-year-olds. PGC executive director Bryan Burhans said this shows that hunters have embraced the state’s antler restrictions, which have been in place since 2002.
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“Pennsylvania is routinely producing some really impressive deer, on both public and private ground,” said Burhans. “We see that in the entries coming into our Big Game Records Program, in the photos smiling hunters share, and in the deer we see when our staff visits deer processors to collect harvest data. We couldn’t have any of that without a well-managed deer herd and cooperation on the part of our hunters.”
Bowhunters accounted for a bit more than a third of the 2021-22 deer harvest by tagging 130,650 whitetails. The previous season’s archery harvest was 160,480 deer. The estimated muzzleloader harvest was 21,060 (1,020 bucks; 20,040 antlerless deer), compared to the 2020-21 muzzleloader harvest of 28,260 (1,140 bucks; 27,120 antlerless deer).