News Successful deer hunting season benefits both conservation and families

Deer harvests in 2022 set a new record and are aligned with deer management goals for Massachusetts. Extra venison was donated to families in need.
  • Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Media Contact for Successful deer hunting season benefits both conservation and families

Media Contact, MassWildlife

Successful deer hunters

MassWildlife officials are announcing preliminary figures for the 2022 deer hunting season. The 2022 season set a new annual record of 15,853 harvested deer, which is well within the expected range permitted under strict regulations set by MassWildlife.

“The statewide deer population has been increasing for several decades,” said MassWildlife Deer and Moose Project Leader Martin Feehan. “Hunting is a critical tool for balancing deer populations with forest health while feeding tens of thousands of families across Massachusetts every year. It really is a win-win for both people and wildlife conservation.” 

Massachusetts has an estimated statewide deer herd of more than 150,000 but densities vary widely from an ideal range of about 12–18 deer per square mile in most of central and western Massachusetts to more than 30–50 deer per square mile in areas of eastern Massachusetts and on the islands. Without population management through regulated hunting, deer become overabundant, increasing risks to public safety from vehicle collisions and habitat damage. When there are too many deer, they over-browse tree saplings and seedlings, which degrades forest health and negatively impacts many other wildlife species. In an effort to reduce deer numbers in eastern Massachusetts, MassWildlife made more permits available to hunters in these areas. Biologists are encouraged by the preliminary results, with record harvests in Bristol and Plymouth counties and on Nantucket, where deer numbers are too high.

This fall, MassWildlife also launched its Hunters Share the Harvest Program, which provides an opportunity for hunters to donate wild game meat like venison to Massachusetts residents in need. In this first pilot year of the program, generous hunters donated more than 1,500 meals of processed venison to veterans’ families through the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation. MassWildlife plans to expand donation and distribution locations in the coming years. Anyone can help financially support MassWildlife's Hunters Share the Harvest Program with a monetary donation to the Massachusetts Outdoor Heritage Foundation. Donations will help cover the processing and packaging costs for donated meat. This program creates the opportunity for hunters to continue hunting after they have filled their own freezers while addressing food insecurity in their communities and helping Massachusetts meet its deer management goals.

Licensed hunters play an important role in wildlife management, but barriers to hunting access remain a problem. In most areas of Massachusetts where there is adequate hunting access, deer populations are within MassWildlife's management goals for promoting healthy forest ecosystems. In areas where effective hunting methods are restricted by town by-laws prohibiting the discharge of firearms and in areas where hunting access is severely limited through discharge setbacks, land closures, or town by-laws requiring written permission, not enough deer are harvested from the population to stabilize or reduce deer population growth.

Hunters are required to report harvested deer and help MassWildlife collect important data like weight and sex. This information helps MassWildlife biologists monitor the deer population throughout Massachusetts. The 2022 statewide harvest of 15,853 deer highlights growing deer abundance statewide and increased access to permits, with the previous 3-year average of 14,007. Preliminary harvest figures for the 2022 deer hunting seasons are:

  • Youth Deer Hunt Day: 114
  • Paraplegic Hunt Days: 7
  • Archery Season: 6,543
  • Shotgun Season: 5,823
  • Primitive Firearms Season: 3,366

Click here for more deer harvest data.

Media Contact for Successful deer hunting season benefits both conservation and families

Division of Fisheries and Wildlife 

MassWildlife is responsible for the conservation of freshwater fish and wildlife in the Commonwealth, including endangered plants and animals. MassWildlife restores, protects, and manages land for wildlife to thrive and for people to enjoy.

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