Deer harvest strong during pandemic

  • Gerald Howes Jr. of Cummington poses with a buck he shot this winter. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2021 8:23:02 PM

CUMMINGTON — It appears the pandemic has motivated people to take to the great outdoors, including hunting for deer.

Although some data are still being entered, the current statewide deer harvest stands at 14,331. The previous season’s harvest was 13,891.

“At the moment this looks like the second-highest take in our history,” said Marion Larson, chief of information and education at MassWildlife.

The record harvest was 14,516 in the 2018 season.

The harvest wasn’t the only thing that saw an increase, however. Hunting license sales from Dec. 1, 2019, to Oct. 20, 2020, increased by 5.8% from the same period starting Dec. 1, 2018. Sporting licenses, for both hunting and fishing, increased by 7.7%, while fishing licenses rose by 23% between these two periods.

As compared to the average of three years of sales for the period of Dec. 1 to Oct. 20, the one in 2020 also had these sales increases: 2.4% more hunting licenses than the average, 7.2% more sporting licenses and 28.1% more fishing licenses.

Moreover, 2018, the year with the record deer take, had fewer hunting and sporting licenses sold during the Dec. 1 to Oct. 20 period than what was sold for that period in 2020.

Larson said increases in such licenses are often tied to hard economic times, and that when she was an environmental police officer in the 1980s, she saw increased participation in hunting and fishing from those laid off from factories and construction in central Massachusetts when those sectors were experiencing hard times.

“Time is one of the major limiting factors in folks participating in hunting and fishing,” she said.

She also said that MassWildlife will be trying to analyze the recent surge of hunting and fishing license buying.

Increased participation in the deer hunt was also noticed locally.

“I think it was more,” said Gerry Howes, president of the Deer Hill Rod and Gun Club in Cummington.

Howes said he shot two deer this past season, both of which were nine-pointers. He also praised the state’s management of the deer herd.

Kelli-Beth Kellogg, another club member, said she wasn’t lucky enough to get a deer this year. However, she noted the competition the club hosts for which hunters get the biggest deer or bear “had the biggest turnout this year.”

The tournament has multiple categories, although Mickey Kellogg, another club member, said that while there were more entries, fewer deer were killed than what he estimated the average to be for the competition.

Kelli-Beth Kellogg also said hunting season was “more appreciated” given what has happened during the past year.

Larson said that MassWildlife is satisfied with the condition of the deer herd in the Pioneer Valley. And she said that most people who hunt and fish eat what they catch.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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