East Tennessee Outdoors… 2020 Deer Harvest Results
BY DANNY BLEVINS
The 2020 deer season has come to a close, and it is time to look at the numbers for the 2020-2021 whitetail deer hunting season. There were few surprises this year, but that could change in the future.
Tennessee hunters harvested 159,879 deer in the state this hunting season. That was a 26 percent increase from the 2019-2020 season of 126,452.
Carter County hunters harvested 1397, while Johnson County had 976 and Unicoi County had 352 total deer harvested, one of the lowest counties in the state.
Giles County led the state in the total harvest with 4100 whitetails harvested. In total, twelve counties harvested more than 3000 each during the 2020-2021 season.
The 2019-2020 whitetail deer season saw fewer deer harvested than had been in 20 years. This year’s increase to more “normal” harvest numbers has to be a relief to Tennessee deer biologists.
There were several factors that contributed to this rebound.
First, the deer harvest of 2019-2020 was very unusual and can be traced to several sources.
The first reason, and maybe most significant, is the mortality rate of deer fawns. Some believe predators, such as beer, bobcat, and coyote, have preyed heavily on deer fawns and decreased the deer herd in Tennessee.
One study that was conducted by the U.S. Forestry Service in South Carolina discovered that coyotes kill one out of every two fawns born in the wild.
If you add to this the impact of other predators such as bobcats, the number jumps to seven out of ten fawns dying to predators during their first year.
Considering our current coyote population, these numbers go a long way in explaining why the deer harvests have decreased over the last few years.
The year 2020 saw an increase in the population of prey species such as squirrels and rabbits and this indirectly helped the deer population. The predators were getting their food sources from smaller species and not just deer.
Add to this a decent year for mast crops and that means the deer had plenty to eat and the fawns grew rapidly.
The second reason for the increased deer harvest was TWRA’s new rules allowing as many deer as possible to be killed in the Chronic Wasting Disease counties in west Tennessee.
The TWRA issued bonus deer and hunters took advantage of the liberal limits to harvest many of these deer.
The final reason the total deer harvest was up by a staggering 26 percent is the Coronavirus. Hunters had time to hunt because many were laid off from work.
Also, many depended on killing a deer for the freezer to give their families food for the winter.
Finally, the hunters who were forbidden to congregate in other social settings because of the virus saw a perfect opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy the mountains.
No one can catch the virus sitting in the top of a tree deer hunting.
Add to all of this the fact that the government gave each individual a stimulus check of $1200, and you had the perfect deer hunting situation. Let’s be honest, many of us spent that $1200 on hunting equipment and new guns!
The 2020-2021 deer season showed hunters how good deer hunting can still be in the state of Tennessee.
If the state can get the CWD problem under control in the western counties, the future of deer hunting in the state is bright indeed.