For the second consecutive year — and second year in modern history — U.S. hunters took more mature bucks than yearlings. This is according to the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) 2017 Whitetail Report.

For the 2015-16 hunting season, the percentage of 3½-year-old and older bucks climbed to 35 percent of the nation’s buck harvest. That’s the highest percentage recorded to date, exceeding the 34 percentage rate of harvested for yearlings (1½-years-old or younger).

The harvest rate of 2½-year-old bucks was 31 percentage.

The Breakdown: Top States For Harvesting Mature Bucks

The QDMA found that of the 28 whitetail states collecting data on bucks, Mississippi was once again the top state for harvesting mature bucks.

  1. Mississippi: 77 percent of bucks killed were 3½ years or older.
  2. Texas: 75 percent of bucks killed were 3½ years or older.
  3. Arkansas: 74 percent of bucks killed were 3½ years or older.
  4. Louisiana: 67 percent of bucks killed were 3½ years or older.
  5. Oklahoma: 60 percent of bucks killed were 3½ years or older.

The same five states finished with some of the lowest rates of taking yearling bucks, as well. For the fourth year in a row, Arkansas had the lowest rate at 7 percent.

“No state wildlife agency employs regulations or encourages hunters to pass anything more than yearling bucks, yet the percentage of bucks 3½ years and older now surpasses 1½- and 2½-year-olds,” said Kip Adams, QDMA Director of Education & Outreach. “That means many hunters are willingly passing 2½-year-old bucks that are legal to harvest, which shows a desire by many hunters to hunt bucks that are at least 3½ years old.”

Photo credit: QDMA

Photo credit: QDMA

2017 Report Comparisons

The QDMA found the 2017 results are “nearly identical” to the previous five-year average.

The report says more antlered bucks were shot in 25 of 37 states (68 percent) in the 2015-16 season than the season prior. Six of 13 Northeastern states, six of 11 Southeastern states and all 13 Midwestern states shot more bucks in 2015 than 2014. The total buck harvest was 2,715,246, which was 4 percent higher than the previous year. Hunters in the Southeast shot 3 percent fewer bucks than in 2014-15. Midwestern hunters shot 10 percent more and hunters in the Northeast had an 11 percent increase.

The full report can be viewed here. It includes state-by-state estimates of total buck harvest, buck age structure and more information. A printed copy can be purchased for $10 from the QDMA.