Best deer harvest nationally in more than two decades

By Dan Armitage, host of Buckeye Sportsman, Ohio’s longest running outdoor radio show

With Ohio’s whitetail hunting season recently wrapped, I found it interesting that hunters nationally harvested an estimated 6.3 million whitetailed deer in the 2020-21 hunting season, the most since 2011. That’s according to the National Deer Association’s latest Deer Report, which also noted that harvests of both antlered bucks and antlerless deer were up over the 2019 season, but the estimated buck harvest of 3,041,544 was the most in 21 years.

“2020 saw the highest buck harvest in the new century, and amazingly we estimate that we set another new record for the percentage of those bucks that were 3.5 years old or older,” said Kip Adams, NDA’s Chief Conservation Officer. “U.S. hunters are taking fewer yearling bucks and killing more of them as mature deer, but this doesn’t mean fewer bucks harvested overall. We’re killing older bucks and more bucks than ever in America.”

The steadily climbing percentage of 3.5-and-older bucks in the harvest is the result of declining pressure nationwide on yearling bucks (1.5 years old). Only 26% of the 2020 antlered buck harvest was yearlings, another new record low in modern history. The total buck harvest of 3,041,544 was up 5.3% from the previous season. It is estimated 41% of them were 3½ or older, or 1.2 million. While hunters killed slightly more bucks in total in the record 1999 season, the national harvest at that time was more than 50% yearlings, therefore the 2020 season likely saw the greatest number of mature bucks killed by American hunters in modern history.

Nationally, the antlerless harvest (which includes does and buck fawns) jumped 12% from the previous season to 3,207,937, reversing a three-year decline and putting the number back above 3 million for the first time since 2013. The antlerless harvest estimate also climbed above the antlered buck harvest for the first time since 2016. The modern antlerless harvest first surpassed the buck harvest in the 1999 season and remained there until it dipped slightly below the buck harvest in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“We know 2020 hunting license sales increased by about 5% over 2019, and those license buyers took home half a million more whitetails than the previous season, or an increase of almost 9%,” Adams said. “They helped increase the antlerless harvest back above the buck harvest where it needs to be, but they also saw more mature bucks in the woods than ever before. Hunters are clearly reaping the benefits of more naturally balanced age structures in herds across the whitetail’s range.”

Among other facts to be found in the Deer Report:

  • 65% of deer taken in the 2020-21 season were killed with a firearm compared to 26% with archery equipment and 9% with a muzzleloader.
  • Texas had the highest total buck harvest of any state at 449,933, but Alabama had the greatest increase in buck harvest from the previous season of any state, climbing by more than 27,000. 
  • Delaware increased its buck harvest by the greatest percentage of any state with 57%, and Delaware also took over the top spot in buck harvest per square mile, at 3.9.
  • Mississippi killed the most bucks per 100 hunters at 74.

Fish Ohio Program nets nearly 9K entries 

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has tabulated the 2021 Fish Ohio submissions, and the results show that 8,943 anglers reeled in at least one qualifying fish last year. Submissions were high for Lake Erie walleye, as well as saugeye, crappie, and largemouth bass at Ohio’s inland lakes.

The Fish Ohio program highlights amazing catches at inland lakes and reservoirs, Lake Erie, the Ohio River, and other waterways for 25 of Ohio’s most popular sport fish. Those who catch a qualifying fish receive a Fish Ohio pin for their first entry and a master angler pin for catching four separate qualifying species in the same year. Each year’s pin features a different species, and in 2022, the headliner is a black crappie. Applications for a Fish Ohio pin are accepted at fishohio.gov.

Lake Erie is renowned as The Walleye Capital of the World, and it is the best place to catch a Fish Ohio walleye. To qualify for Fish Ohio, a walleye needs to measure 28 inches or longer. In 2021, anglers caught 1,392 Fish Ohio walleyes in Lake Erie, the largest of which measured 34 inches long.

According to the Division of Wildlife, some of the more popular species at inland lakes are largemouth bass, saugeye, and crappie. A saugeye longer than 21 inches, a largemouth bass longer than 20 inches, and a crappie longer than 13 inches qualifies for Fish Ohio status. Visit wildohio.gov for details on the Fish Ohio program.

MWCD receives Ohio BUILDS grant

The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) has been awarded a $1.55 million grant from the Ohio Department of Development, Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure grant program. Governor DeWine created the Ohio BUILDS water infrastructure grant program to reduce or eliminate the local financial burden associated with critical infrastructure needs, such as the construction of new water systems, the replacement of aging water lines, and the installation new water mains. Grants are also funding projects to prevent sewer system backups and replace failing household sewage treatment systems with new sewers.

The grant awarded to MWCD will fund the building of a new 8,000 gallon per day wastewater treatment plant, two new pump stations with force mains, and gravity collection to tie-in the existing marina building, restrooms, and rental cabins along with a new RV dump station at the North Fork area of Leesville Lake. Currently, onsite sanitary sewage is collected in a number of holding tanks, which are periodically pumped out.  Installing this new treatment will eliminate possible threats to water quality. 

The project is currently under design, and construction will begin in 2022. Since applications for the program opened in late July, the Ohio Department of Development received more than 1,200 grant applications requesting nearly $1.4 billion in funding.

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