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It’s more than a trivia answer that Delaware is the only state with “deer” in its very name. And a lot of deer are located todaywithin the state of Delaware, too.
But by the early 20th century, in the face of overhunting and habitat destruction, Delaware’s white-tailed deer herd had dwindled. The deer population eventually rebounded without any restocking efforts, and in 1954, the first hunting season for deer in Delaware was held. A total of 505 deer were harvested during the three-day season, which permitted harvest of either sex.
Such has been the continued health of white-tailed deer that, unlike most states, Delaware has maintained an either-sex season since the hunt's inception.
As the years passed after that first season, Delaware’s deer population increased and the herd’s range expanded as habitat was restored. So well did deer recover that, in an attempt to slow the population growth rate, harvest seasons and bag limits were liberalized. The extended hunting season and larger seasonal bag limit are integral to Delaware’s deer management program. The program has cultivated a healthy, sustainable white-tailed deer herd. Delaware's deer harvest totals from each of the past three seasons have ranked in the top five all-time. The harvest for the 2015/16 season set a new record with 14,681 deer taken, topping the previous high total of 14,669 from 2004/05.
Nor do deer hunters in Delaware have to look very far to find a place to hunt: Approximately10 percent of land in Delaware is state-owned, and open for public hunting.
Delaware also is divided into 18 Deer Management Zones, and within each zone there exist numerous public hunting opportunities. And while there may be a tendency to overlook the state for white-tail trophy potential due to its small geographic size, the number of quality bucks harvested per square mile in Delaware is comparable to the Midwest and other areas more often considered "prime" deer hunting regions.
In recent years, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has broadened Delaware’s deer management program. During winter of 2005, the Division conducted its first statewide aerial infrared deer population survey.
Delaware's total deer population was previously unknown, so information gained from this survey was extremely beneficial. The survey led to the revelation that, as with many states, Delaware too has areas in which the white-tailed deer population exceeds the state's carrying capacity.
Due to habitat loss associated with increased development, humans and deer are intermixing more now than ever. This interaction can lead to conflicts such as crop damage, damage to shrubs, flowers and trees, deer-vehicle collisions, and the spread of diseases. In an attempt to further reduce the deer population in urban areas, the Division, in conjunction with the Department of Parks & Recreation, conducts several managed deer hunts in New Castle County each year.
To ensure that the deer population remains healthy and in balance with the environment, and is a viable resource for the enjoyment of all citizens in Delaware, the Division of Fish & Wildlife takes a proactive posture with its deer management program. Use the links in the box above to learn more about it, and about the growing opportunities to hunt for quality deer in Delaware.