---- — CONCORD — The preliminary numbers are in for New Hampshire’s deer, bear and fall turkey hunting seasons, and it was a successful year for many N.H. hunters.
The estimated statewide deer kill for New Hampshire’s 2012 season was 11,590 deer, up 4 percent from the final 2011 harvest (11,109 deer) and the highest harvest since 2007. The 2012 harvest represents about 14 percent of New Hampshire’s pre-season population of about 85,000 deer. Deer hunting closed in the state on Dec. 15, the final day of the archery deer season.
“Last year’s mild winter helped the deer population in much of the state and the statewide kill increased for the second year in a row,” said Kent Gustafson, a deer biologist and Wildlife Programs Supervisor at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. “Registration data are being entered and verified and by mid-January, better information on the distribution of the kill by Wildlife Management Unit will be available.”
The unofficial deer kill for New Hampshire’s 2012 season by county, with comparisons to previous years, is posted at huntnh.com/Hunting/deer_hunt_take_by_County.htm.
The 2012 figures are estimates based on the number of deer reported as being registered in each county, not necessarily killed in that county. As a result they may not be directly comparable to the actual kill by county for previous years.
Hunters took a record number of black bears this fall, surpassing the previous record of 803 bears taken in 2003. New Hampshire bear hunters took a total of 806 bears (433 males and 373 females) in 2012, which represents a new record harvest.
The numbers are still preliminary. Bait hunters harvested 426 bears; still hunters/stalkers took 282 bears; and hound hunters registered 98 bears. The overall harvest sex ratio was 1.2 males per female.
The 2012 New Hampshire bear harvest was 39 percent above the five-year in-season average of 581 bears for this time period, according to Fish and Game Bear Project Leader Andrew Timmins. Additionally, the 2012 harvest was nearly double that achieved in 2011, when a total of 418 bears were taken in New Hampshire. Regionally, 180 bears were taken in the North, 229 in the White Mountains, 263 in the Central, 76 in Southwest-1, 57 in Southwest-2, and 1 in the Southeast regions.
The 2012 bear season also saw a new record bait harvest set, surpassing the previous high of 372 bears taken in both 2009 and 2010. The increase in bait harvest, as well as the overall bear harvest, during 2012 represents both continued increased participation in baiting, as well as lower food abundance.
The primary cause of the high bear harvest in 2012 was the decrease in the abundance and distribution of fall bear foods. Similarly to previous high-harvest years, bears become more consistent and predictable in their movements, thus more vulnerable, when food is scarce or localized. Typical fall foods were generally absent this year — fruit crops were poor and beechnuts were absent. While acorns were locally abundant in select areas, the overall nut crop was poor.
Bears were heavily attracted to cornfields and select oak groves with nuts. As a result, hunters encountered bears at a much higher rate compared to years when foods were widespread and abundant. Additionally, the success rate of bait hunters tends to be higher compared to the other methods of bear harvest. While this does vary some from one year to the next, bait hunting success is usually high during poor food years.
For a comparison of bear season results in recent years, visit huntnh.com/Hunting/bear_hunt_take.htm.
Fall turkey hunters also did well. Preliminary reports indicate that overall results for the five-day fall shotgun season and 3-month archery seasons, New Hampshire hunters registered a total of 1,024 turkeys, a 60 percent increase over last year’s combined fall turkey seasons.
The higher numbers are primarily due to the semi-drought conditions (good for hatching) early in the year that led to good turkey productivity in 2012, as well as the scarcity of mast (acorns, apples, beechnuts, etc.) in the woods this fall, making turkeys more vulnerable to hunters, according to Fish and Game Turkey Biologist Ted Walski. The preliminary 2012 breakdown was 707 wild turkeys harvested during the fall shotgun season and 311 turkeys harvested during the fall archery season.
Final numbers from all the year’s hunting seasons will be summarized in the 2012 New Hampshire Wildlife Harvest Summary, which will be issued in March.
New Hampshire’s successful hunting seasons are a reminder that hunting activities, made possible by science-based wildlife management, contribute significantly to New Hampshire’s economy. The recently released 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-associated Recreation reports that 56,000 people aged 16 and older (resident and non-resident) hunt in New Hampshire. These hunters generate about $61 million in hunting-related expenditures each year.
The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is the guardian of the state’s fish, wildlife and marine resources and their habitats. Visit huntnh.com.