2014 New Hampshire Deer Hunt Outlook

By Dan Bergeron, N.H. Fish and Game Deer Project Leader

White-tailed deer - USFWSThe 2014 New Hampshire deer season is likely to be another great season for NH deer hunters. In parts of the state, the deer population has recovered from declines following some severe winters beginning in 2007-08, and deer numbers are improving in many other areas.

Over the past three years, the deer kill has been increasing from a recent low of 9,759 in 2010. The 2013 kill was 12,540, up roughly 8% from the 2012 harvest. Overall fall foods in 2013 were roughly average, with acorns being slightly below the 16 year average while beech nuts and apples were above. With an average fall food year, deer likely went into last winter in relatively good shape.

A harder winter: During the winters of 2011-12 and 2012-13, the winter severity index (WSI), a measure of the effect of winter on deer survival based on snow depth and minimum temperature, tied the two lowest statewide average values since Fish and Game began monitoring WSI in 1964-65.  These two consecutive mild winters allowed deer densities in many areas of the state to increase to historically high levels for the beginning of the 2013 season.  This increase in the state’s deer herd helps act as a buffer to the negative impacts from more severe winter weather. The winter of 2013-14, although above average in many areas of the state, was more typical of a NH winter than the previous two years. Although temperatures were below average and snow persisted into spring in some areas, deep snows that confined deer to wintering areas did not arrive until February in many areas and winter mortality did not appear to increase substantially. Regional biologists noted only a handful of mortality while conducting their annual deer yard surveys.    

Population goals: Several Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) have reached or exceeded their goal and either-sex days have been increased in these units for the 2014 season to stabilize or reduce populations to goal.  These increases will also provide additional hunting opportunity for the state’s many deer hunters. However, in many of New Hampshire’s WMUs, the deer population is still below goal and limited either-sex hunting will continue in an effort to help build the deer population. Be sure to check the “2014-15 New Hampshire Hunting & Trapping Digest” for 2014 season details, including WMU-specific regulations when it becomes available (click here and on publication cover).

Youth weekend: A healthy deer population this fall will provide a great opportunity to take a young person deer hunting on New Hampshire’s youth weekend, October 25-26, 2014. Youth hunters took 483 deer during the 2013 youth weekend, and high deer numbers will continue to provide an exciting opportunity for kids under 16 to begin, or learn more about, deer hunting under the guidance of a licensed hunter age 18 or older.

Apprentice hunting license: Apprentice hunting licenses will again be available during the 2014 season. These licenses provide persons 16 and over, who have not yet completed a hunter education course, the opportunity to deer hunt under the guidance of a licensed hunter age 18 or older. This program gives people who may not have grown up with family or friends that hunted, or simply think they would enjoy the experience of being outdoors and learning the skills of deer hunting, the chance to give it a try. In 2013, a total of 924 individuals (253 men and 671 women) took advantage of the apprentice license program hunting everything from deer to migratory waterfowl. Click here to learn more about being an apprentice or accompanying an apprentice hunter.

Special Unit-L & M antlerless only permits: Special Unit L and M permits will be available for the 2014 season to help control deer numbers in the southeast portion of the state, where the potential for deer-human conflicts is the highest. Again in 2014, a total of 4,000 Unit M permits are being sold.  However, New this year, all Unit M permits will come with 2 deer tags at a cost of $26.00.  These permits will no longer be sold with a 1 tag option.  This change was made in an attempt to increase harvest rates in WMU M without increasing hunter density and potential conflicts and safety concerns.  Also New this year, a total of up to 500 hunters were able to purchase Special Antlerless Deer Permits for Unit L.  These permits came with 1 deer tag at a cost of $13.00. Both permits were issued on a first-come, first-served basis. As there were relatively few Unit L permits being issued these permits went quickly and they sold out after the first few hours of being on sale. Unit M permits are still available online or at Fish and Game headquarters in Concord (click here for more information and to purchase).

Wildlife Harvest Summary: Hunters can begin their scouting for this fall now in air-conditioned comfort by reviewing the “2013 N.H. Wildlife Harvest Summary.” This publication provides information and additional detail on last year’s deer and other big game seasons, and is available for review on the NH Fish and Game website (click here and on publication cover). Hard copies are available at Fish and Game regional offices and at headquarters in Concord.

Great outlook for 2014: The state’s deer herd should continue to hold strong and this fall season should be another great season for hunting deer in NH. Both seasoned and beginner hunters alike should have great opportunity to see and harvest deer. So get out there this fall, start scouting, introduce a friend or a youth to the sport, and Hunt New Hampshire!

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