Sportsman’s Corner: Another great year for Mass. deer hunters


  • This deer crosses Fay Road in New Salem near Route 202 recently. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 2/7/2020 9:37:46 PM
Modified: 2/7/2020 9:37:33 PM

MassWildlife Deer Project Leader Dave Stainbrook recently released his preliminary harvest figures for 2019 by season. It appears like the total will be second-highest in history with almost 14,000 deer taken during the shotgun, archery, black powder, youth and paraplegic hunting seasons.

The highest harvest was from the archery season with 6,149 deer checked in during that season which ran from Oct. 21 to Nov. 30 in most of the state and opened earlier, on Oct. 7, in Zones 10-14 which lie in the easternmost part of the state. Bow hunters have a number of advantages that include six (or eight) weeks of hunting and a season that occurs in the peak of the whitetail rut and puts them afield when bucks are most active.

The second-highest deer take was the two-week shotgun season, which at one time was the only hunting season and lasted six days. How things have changes since the 1960s when the antlerless permit system was instituted, and less than 2,000 deer were killed in 1967. With biologist having control of female harvest and breaking the state into deer management zones where data-driven information could drive decisions on how many antlerless permits are issued, a steady growth led to the expansion of shotgun and archery season and the creation and expansion of primitive arms season.

That primitive arms season began as a three-day hunt for hobbyists expanded to six days as more began to participate to expand their hunting season and now is two weeks plus. In 2019 hunters using muzzle-loading firearms tagged 2,694 deer.

The one-day Youth Hunt resulted in 89 deer being taken by young participants and the special hunt for paraplegic sportsmen, which took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 resulted in five deer being taken.

MassWildlife’s report notes that the deep snow that covered much of the state during the shotgun season appears to have caused a drop in hunter effort and deer harvest during the shotgun season, particularly on the opening Monday. However, it would seem that deer taken during the archery season and primitive season made up for that short-term drop.

Total harvest is influenced by deer density and the number of antlerless deer permits that MassWildlife allocates in each zone, as well as annual changes in hunter effort, harvest-rates, success-rates, weather, and other factors. The MassWildlife Deer Project Leader will spend the next few months thoroughly analyzing the deer harvest and biological data as well as assessing deer population trends in each zone. The results and recommendations for the 2020 season will take place at the annual deer management review presented at a Fisheries and Wildlife Board meeting in late spring. A complete harvest summary will be posted on the MassWildlife website shortly after the deer review, so please check back here in early summer.

This writer bucked the trend by taking a button buck. Filling his Zone 5 antlerless deer tag on the opening Monday but then had limited time afield when that pesky virus that was going around took control of me and stayed on for five weeks, just this past week leaving me to swallow without throat discomfort. Time to get back on the treadmill and get myself back in shape. Gobblers will be soon acting like spring and before you know it, winter will be a memory as migrating birds return and the cycle of life in the natural world starts up again.

Apologies for screwing up my email in the column written about the Mahar Fish’N Game Club Game Supper. It was brought to my attention by Jerry Murchie who checked in from Florida and reminisced about his high school memories of the club’s first president. Bill Bergquist. Jerry mentioned hunting deer in Vermont with his father, Buck Murchie and Bill and Charlie Harris. The Game Supper is March 12.

Tickets have been delayed going out to the club members due to the cancellation of school two days this week but will be out shortly. If you would like tickets or would be willing to donate some game, you can contact club advisor Evelyn Cunha at the school, or you can contact me. Evelyn’s school email is and mine is

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