Harvests from two of Delaware’s most popular hunting seasons – deer and wild turkey – have set records for the 2019-20 season.
A record 16,969 deer were harvested in the recent deer season, while 643 wild turkeys were taken during the spring turkey season April 11 - May 9. The April 4 youth non-ambulatory disabled hunt produced the fourth highest recorded turkey harvest.
“The record deer harvest shows progress in managing Delaware’s deer population by providing expanded and sustainable deer hunting opportunities toward lowering deer conflicts with farming and motorists,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin.
The 16,969 deer taken during 2019-20 exceeded the previous record by 1,665 deer (10.9%) compared to 15,304 deer harvested during the 2017-18 hunting season. The past season was the seventh consecutive year that more than 14,000 deer were harvested by hunters. The 2019-20 deer harvest numbers were highest in Sussex County with 8,996, followed by Kent County with 4,980 and New Castle County with 2,993.
Other deer harvest records for 2019-20 include 9,423 does, 55.5% of the total harvest, which exceeded the previous record of 8,328 from 2004-05; 4,861 antlered bucks were taken, exceeding the record of 4,729 set in 2016-17.
There were 2,495 deer taken by crossbow, exceeding the record of 1,781 deer taken in 2017-18. Eleven the 18 WMAs also saw record harvests, with zones 2, 4, 8, 13, 14 and 15 seeing substantial increases. A record of 2,221 deer were harvested on Sundays, representing 13.1% of the total statewide harvest.
The 2019-20 hunting season was the second consecutive year for deer hunting on all Sundays on private lands and DFW public wildlife areas, providing additional hunting opportunities.
The harvest of 643 wild turkeys for 2020 was 78 birds higher than last year’s total. Only turkeys with beards, almost always males, can be taken. Turkey harvest self-check stations established in lieu of traditional in-person check stations due to COVID-19 precautions were successful.
Wild turkeys were taken in 17 of the state’s 18 wildlife management zones, with 537 turkeys taken on private land, and 106 from 20 public lands, matching the previous record taken on public lands in 2017. The 2020 spring total harvest also included 30 birds taken by youth non-ambulatory disabled hunters during the special youth-non-ambulatory disabled turkey hunt April 4, the highest special turkey hunt harvest to date.
Highlights from the 2020 turkey season included 16 non-typical turkeys, gobblers with more than one beard; 12 had two beards, three had three beards, and one had four beards.