COVID-19 a lifeline for deer as hunting harvest plummets by 100,000

Massive reduction in recreational hunting, more wild deer in the bush

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Victorian GMA 2020 deer harvest report
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More than 100,000 deer survived 2020 because of COVID-19, according to the Victorian Game Management Authority (GMA) annual report on deer hunting in the state.

Victorians shot 173,800 deer in 2019 but COVID-19 restrictions are the most likely reason the figure dropped to 69,900 in 2020 — a 60% reduction.

In both 2019 and 2020, there were roughly same number of people who held a hunting licence — around 41,000, but it fluctuates — and while 60% of them hunted in 2019, only 35% got out in the field during 2020. 

Those hunters spent only 10.5 days hunting, on average, compared with 13.6 days.

Hunters were just as successful in the time they put in, though.

“The report shows that while the number of deer harvested and days spent hunting in the field had reduced substantially, hunter efficiency remained consistent with previous years,” GMA chief executive officer Graeme Ford said.

An estimated 50,635 sambar were taken in 2020, of which 56 per cent were female. The estimated fallow harvest was 11,372 deer, of which 73 per cent were female.

Hunters averaged five deer each, or roughly one deer for every two days hunting, the same rate as in 2019.

The low 2020 numbers come after a spike in harvest figures in 2019, when hunters spent 45% more time hunting than in 2018, and killed 43% more deer. 

The totals had been trendy rapidly upwards for a decade as more hunters went out in the field pursuing a reportedly burgeoning deer population.

The report sheds light on the significant impact hunting has on the control of deer numbers.

Australian Deer Association executive officer Barry Howlett said the lost harvest was significant.

“There are over 100,000 deer that did not die in Victoria last year because recreational hunters could not get out,” he said.

“The numbers of wild deer killed by recreational hunters absolutely dwarfs that taken in expensive and largely secretive government-funded control programs.

“We have data on the harvest and the economic impact of recreational hunters, surely it stands to reason that we should have data on the harvest and economic impact that is paid for from the public purse.”

The ADA has previously described hunters as the state’s “largest killers of wild deer by an order of magnitude”. 

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