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2009 Buck Harvest By Age Class - You Might Be Surprised!

by Mark Kenyon 28. February 2011 16:22
Mark Kenyon

As I laid on the couch today, waiting out what I hope is one of the last arctic chills of the year, I paged through the most recent Whitetail Report published by the Quality Deer Management Association. This incredibly informative report contains a plethora of information in regards to the newest trends and topics pertaining to deer and deer management in America. When I hit page seven I came to an immediate halt and my eyes grew wide. Could it be true? Just as recently as 2007, in my home state of Michigan, 62% of all bucks harvested were 1 1/2 year olds! Today, in the era of monster midwest bucks breaking records every year, how could there still be so many yearlings being shot? Further investigation showed that Michigan was not the only state being plagued by this epidemic of dead yearlings! But as bad as that seems, as I dug into this issue further, I found that it's certainly been worse in the past. According to a Kip Adams article found on, at one point in Pennsylvania history over 80% of bucks harvested were yearlings and less than 1% of bucks ever made it to maturity! All that being said, all is not glum when looking at the harvest rate data by age class provided in the Whitetail Report.


As I glimpsed through the chart of harvest rates, an interesting story line of two ends of a spectrum became apparent. I saw the incredible improvement by some states in just a few years, I saw some states that have incredible ratios of mature bucks and saw other states that are just as bad as Michigan. And while I was surprised by how many states still are clearing out the vast majority of their deer before maturity, I was also surprised and encouraged by how many states were on the other end of that spectrum! For instance, over 2/3 of all bucks taken in Mississippi in 2009 were 3 1/2 years or older! Talk about a great age structure!

After seeing this kind of data, it's obvious that deer hunting and management has certainly come a long way in recent decades. That being said, there is still plenty of room for improvement in regards to herd age structure and hunter opportunities for mature bucks. For those interested in having more opportunities at 3 1/2 year old or better bucks, the first step is letting those younger bucks live. As the saying goes, let them go, let them grow. For anyone curious, I've included below some of the top states for harvesting 1 1/2 year old and 3 1/2 year old bucks.

2007 Highest Harvest Rates of 1 1/2 Year Old Bucks

Minnesota - 67% (2009 - 41%)
Maryland - 63% (57%)
Michigan - 62% (52%)
New Jersey - 62% (60%)
New York - 62% (59%)

2009 Lowest Harvest Rates of 1 1/2 Year Old Bucks
Arkansas - 10%
Mississippi - 14%
Louisiana - 16%
Alabama - 25%
Rhode Island - 27%
Nebraska - 31%


2009 Highest Harvest Rates of 3 1/2 + Year Old Bucks

Mississippi - 66%
Lousianna - 65%
Arkansas - 64%
Kansas - 50% (2008)
Missouri - 37%

To see the full list of states and their harvest rates by age class, check out the free digital copy of the 2011 Whitetail Report on the QDMA website.



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