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Delaware Deer Harvest & Research

Hunting Regulations Icon Delaware Hunting

Deer hunting in the First State has come a long way since 1954 when that first year harvest topped out at 505 animals. It’s been said that many thought too many deer were taken that year and that the population could not sustain that sort of pressure. The graph shows that this was certainly not the case. Annual Delaware deer harvests now routinely top 14,000 animals. For additional harvest information visit www.de.gov/fw

Deer Research in Delaware; Past, Present, and Future

Over the past few years, the Division of Fish & Wildlife has funded and worked with the University of Delaware on multiple white-tailed deer research projects throughout Sussex County. The objective of these projects has been to provide a comprehensive understanding of both survival and habitat use of the State’s most popular game animal. A study conducted by graduate student Melissa Kalb from 2009-2012 placed radio collars on adult does and tracked their movements. The research found that does covered less ground and utilized smaller home ranges during the hunting season relative to the summer growing season. Kalb also found that does used different habitat during risky daylight hours in the hunting season, but did not leave their established home ranges. Survival estimates for adult does also ranged widely between years, from 43% in 2010 and 72% in 2011. For more information on the adult doe study, please visit (http://de.gov/deerdisappear ).

In 2013, the University launched the second phase of the research by placing tracking collars on juvenile and adult bucks. Many of these bucks received more advanced GPS collars that take locations every hour during the hunting season. The study, led by Ph.D. candidate Jacob Haus, will conclude at the end of 2017, but preliminary data has started to paint a picture about the lives and deaths of bucks in southern Delaware. While some young bucks are content to spend their lives near where they were born, many leave the area in search of better resources or potential mates. Some bucks collared during the study moved between 15 and 20 miles before finding a new home. Others shifted their range a few miles during the summer, only to return their original range the following fall. Once the study is complete, researchers will attempt to understand the underlying cause of these movements and how the different strategies affect survival rates. Hunter harvest has been the main source of buck mortality by far, with older animals harvested at a greater rate than young bucks, suggesting that Delaware hunters may be passing younger deer with the hopes of bagging an older buck.

The third research project began in the summer of 2016, and focuses on the survival of newborn fawns. Master’s student Justin Dion will spend the summer of 2016 and 2017 placing expandable collars on fawns that were born only hours before. With relatively low numbers of natural predators, it is unclear if most of the state’s fawns reach adulthood, or if other sources of mortality fill in the gaps; questions researchers will begin to answer this summer as the two-year project concludes.

Hunters who encounter tagged or collared deer are encouraged to treat them exactly as they would have if the collar were not present. Selectively targeting or passing collared deer will bias survival estimates and negatively affect the results of the studies. If you harvest or find a deer with a collar or ear tags, please call (302) 831-4621 to report the animal to University of Delaware researchers.

Research conducted by: Jacob M. Haus, Ph.D., University of Delaware Graduate Research Assistant, Jacob L. Bowman, Ph.D., University of Delaware Wildlife Ecology Dept. Chair and Joseph E. Rogerson, Division of Fish & Wildlife Species Conservation & Research Program Manager

2016/2017 DELAWARE
DEER HARVEST
BY COUNTY AND
MANAGEMENT ZONE

COUNTY

DEER HARVEST

New Castle

2,548

Kent

4,173

Sussex

7,960

ZONE

HARVEST

1A

957

1B

426

2

855

3

647

4

630

5

647

6

862

7

1293

8

985

9

902

10

635

11

1288

12

829

13

793

14

676

15

655

16

1070

17

643

2016/2017
Deer Season Highlights (All-time Records)

  • 14,793 deer harvested —
    Most all-time
  • Most antlered bucks (4,729)
  • Most male deer harvested (7,192)
  • Most deer harvested in
    Kent County (4,399)
  • Most deer harvested in Wildlife Management
    Zones 4, 8, and 13.
  • Most deer harvested with a crossbow (1,613)