See how each state in the Northeastern region is shaping up for deer season
The 2023 deer season is here, and with it comes our annual Northeast deer season forecast. In most states, deer herds and outlooks seem to be on the uptrend. Check out some of the highlights below, and read the full reports for all of the latest info.
The 2023 season looks bright in the Northeast. Image by Paul Winterman
“Overall, [it’s] relatively stable across the state, with some zones decreasing due to our efforts to reduce the population and increasing in others due to restrictions on tag issuance,” said Andrew LaBonte, wildlife biologist for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “We expect a similar harvest as we have had over the past 10 years. Nothing would indicate otherwise. Typical fluctuations occur based on acorns available and weather and snow conditions.”
Delaware is a small but diverse state, with habitat ranging from coastal marsh to upland hardwood forest. Archery season opens earlier than in most states (Sept. 1), giving hunters a crack at a velvet buck the first week of the season. “Delaware has one of the longest deer seasons available to hunters,” said Samuel C. Millman, wildlife biologist with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Our previous harvests indicate that we are trending up in harvest every year.”
“Regarding the deer population, we had a pretty easy winter but a hard spring for fawns,” said Nathan Bieber, with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Only time will tell how deer numbers look coming out of that. Regarding the hunting seasons, the quality of a hunting season is mostly determined by the individual, not by deer, I think. Those hunters that focus on enjoying their season however they like will have a great season.”
Maryland has been a hotbed for big bucks the past several years, and the past couple have been no exception. Per capita, it’s a top 10 destination for big bucks. With good habitat and mild winters, watch for Maryland to add to its record-book totals again this fall.
Though Massachusetts doesn’t put a lot of deer in the record books, a lot of its entries — nontypical in particular — have come in recent years. All of the state’s nontypical bucks have been entered since 1995, including the state’s current nontypical record, which is a 218-5/8-inch buck taken by Andrew Healy in Hampshire County in 2018. Overall, record-book entries are evenly distributed throughout the state.
Record-class deer are fairly evenly distributed throughout the state. During the past several years, Rockingham, Grafton, and Hillsborough counties have led the deer harvest numbers, but all southern counties are a good bet for numbers and trophy potential. Check out some densely populated urban areas for bowhunting opportunities.
“Hunters should expect improvements to the condition of the deer herd this season with a wetter summer, more promising mast crops, and another mild previous winter,” said Jodi Powers, principal biologist with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Wildlife Management. “Areas that were hit by EHD last year should be recovering. Any sick or diseased deer sightings should be reported to NJDEP Fish and Wildlife at DEER DISEASE SIGHTING FORM (ARCGIS.COM).”
“The age distribution of bucks available to hunters in New York continues to improve,” said Brendan Quirion, wildlife biologist for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “Based on DEC's deer population monitoring, the buck harvest has shifted from more than 70% yearlings a couple of decades ago to greater than 60% 2.5-year-old or older bucks in recent years. Harvesting antlerless deer instead of young bucks contributes more to deer management and can increase hunter satisfaction through increased viewing of and opportunities to harvest older-aged bucks.”
“For hunters who want to see large numbers of deer, WMUs 5C, 2A, 2D, 1A and 1B would be good choices,” said Jeannine Fleegle, wildlife biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “With APRs in place, hunters have a good chance for a 2-1/2-year-old buck in all the WMUs. An average 2-1/2-year-old buck will typically be 13 to 15 inches wide and have eight points. But hunters also need to be patient. It’s OK to let even a legal buck walk. Many of them will survive to become mature bucks with larger antlers.”
“We provide ample opportunity with a lengthy hunting season with liberal bag limits and a muzzleloader season during the rut,” said Dylan Ferreira, senior wildlife biologist for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Don’t be afraid to ask for private property permission. Look in our hunting and trapping abstract for a detailed map and table of huntable properties.”
“Recent buck harvests are as high as they’ve been since the 1990s,” said Nick Fortin, deer and moose project leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “With recently expanded hunting opportunities, now is a good time to hunt Vermont. But deer activity changes with weather and food availability. Have a few different hunting spots, because deer may not be where they were earlier in the year or where they were in previous years.”
Most deer hunters don’t think of West Virginia, but it’s an excellent state. A trophy-class animal could obviously turn up anywhere occasionally, but the southwestern section of the state is best. Counties to consider include Boone, Cabell, Lincoln, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Wayne, and Wyoming (some of which have been archery-only for many years). This is challenging terrain, so don’t expect easy hunting.
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