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Record deer hunting season in Delaware

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

A record number of deer were harvested during the 2019-2020 hunting season.

The 16,969 deer harvested by hunters helps manage population levels. That's over 10% more than the previous record in the 2017-2018 season. Over 14,000 deer have been harvested per hunting season for seven consecutive years now.

Numbers were highest in Sussex County (8,996), followed by Kent (4,980) and New Castle (2,993).

Other deer harvest records this season include:

  • 9,423 does, representing 55.5% of the total harvest and exceeding the previous record of 8,328 from 2004-2005. Harvesting more does than bucks is necessary to properly manage the size and quality of the deer population  
  • 4,861 antlered adult bucks with antlers three inches or more in length, exceeding the previous record of 4,729 from 2016-2017.
  • 2,495 deer harvested by crossbow, exceeding the previous record of 1,781 from 2017-2018.
  • 11 of Delaware’s 18 Wildlife Management Zones experienced record deer harvests.
  • 2,221 deer were harvested on Sundays, representing 13.1% of the total statewide harvest. The 2019-2020 hunting season was the second consecutive year in which deer hunting occurred on all Sundays during the season on both private lands and Division of Fish and Wildlife public areas.

Hunters also harvested 643 wild turkeys in April and May this year, the fourth-highest turkey harvest in state history and 78 more than last year. Only turkeys with beards – almost always males – can be harvested in Delaware. 

Wild turkeys were harvested from 17 of the state’s 18 wildlife management zones, with 537 turkeys harvested on privately-owned lands and 106 harvested from 20 different public lands. Weekly harvest totals were 270 birds the first week, 133 the second week, 94 the third week and 116 the fourth week. This year’s total harvest also included 30 birds harvested by youth/non-ambulatory disabled hunters during the special youth/non-ambulatory disabled turkey hunt on April 4, the highest special turkey hunt harvest to date.

Highlights of the 2020 turkey hunting season included the harvest of 16 “non-typical” turkeys, or gobblers with more than one beard. Of these birds, 12 had two beards, three had three beards and one had four beards.

“Deer and turkey hunting are among the most popular outdoor pursuits in our state, and Delaware hunters are benefiting from our management of these two prized game animals,” said Delaware Department of Natural Resources Secretary Shawn Garvin. “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.”

For more information on hunting deer or turkey in Delaware, see the Hunting and Trapping Guide or call the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Wildlife Section at 302-739-9912.