As antlers begin to drop and focus shifts toward cultivating new fawns and antlers, a look at the numbers from last season can help with expectations for the season to come.

The drop in deer checked in online last season was nearly 13,000 from the year before. The season totals came in at more than 85,000.

History has proven this state can expect six-digit harvest totals. The question is whether or not this season’s low harvest total is cause for concern. The answer is no.

Yes, habitat conditions were excellent this year. But that doesn’t mean that the deer herd will rebound from a five-year drought in one season.

Looking forward, the mild weather and good habitat conditions have trail cameras showing excellent body condition. With sufficient precipitation, conditions for raising fawns and growing antlers will be good.

The drop in the harvest total last season is easy to explain. It also may be a good thing for seasons to come.

Weather was the number one factor in the drop in harvest totals last season. It started with warm weather during muzzleloader season at the end of October. The lack of frosty temperatures brought nocturnal activity that just wouldn’t budge into daylight hours.

The middle of November saw the best hunting of the season. Deer movement and weather were both good, but bow hunters were mainly waiting out big bucks.

The largest contribution of the year comes from the opening weekend of gun season. The weather was terrible, and once again harvest totals took a hit. The same happened on Thanksgiving, and the numbers for the season were doomed.   

The poor weather during those few days of the season could have easily had a large enough impact to cause a drop in harvest totals by 13,000 deer. The population was strong enough to support a larger harvest, but it just didn’t happen.

That should translate into a lot of bucks that made it through the season, giving strong potential to the next few season. If we can avoid drought conditions, we could see banner deer hunting in the near future.

Don’t Forget

If you have pulled your trail cameras from the woods, you may want to get them back out. Last week I had surprising set of pictures appear.

A one-antlered buck went from feeding to chasing a doe. Although he shed one of his antlers, he still felt the need to chase the ladies around. And then a mature buck entered the frame with another younger buck in tow.

You may not believe breeding activity can occur this late, but the pictures don’t lie. I could have changed the date on the pictures to November and no one would know any different.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoor columnist. He is a longtime hunter and can be reached at jkocan@stwnewspress.com.

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