The 2021 Northeast Deer Hunting Forecast

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An all-inclusive report for each state, including season dates, license costs, population trends, up-and-coming counties, public-land hotspots, and more

Deer season is knocking on the door, and it’s time to answer questions people have about the Northeast. Hunters will be pleased to know that things are shaping up quite nicely for the region. Thanks to several consecutive mild winters, solid mast crops, improved management decisions by states, and more, things are on the upswing. Where CWD is present, states are doing a fair job of slowing the spread. The buck age structure is improving. And, for the most part, deer densities are being held in check. Overall, deer herds are doing well.

If you’re interested in the latest whitetail information, check out detailed reports for each destination, including season dates, license costs, population trends, up-and-coming counties, public-land hotspots, and more, courtesy of Realtree's Antler Nation.

The Northeast is primed for a great fall and winter. Are you ready for your best deer season yet? Image by Shutterstock/Warren Metcalf

Connecticut

Harvest numbers have been down for the past few years, but most authorities attribute it to several reasons, including heavy mast crops. Still, the hunting is pretty good, and hunters see a good degree of success here.

“Overall, [it’s] relatively stable across the state, with some zones decreasing due to our efforts to reduce the population and increasing in others due to restrictions on tag issuance,” said Andrew LaBonte, wildlife biologist for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “We expect a similar harvest as we have had over the past 10 years. Nothing would indicate otherwise. Typical fluctuations occur based on acorns available and weather/snow conditions.”

Learn more here.

Delaware

The harvest numbers have been down slightly, but the deer populations are improving. It’s a small, diverse state that packs a big punch. The state’s officials work hard behind the scenes to improve deer and deer hunting, too. Overall, Delaware is firing on all cylinders.

Furthermore, for those hunting solely in the Northeast, this is probably the best place to tag a velvet buck in the region. Archery season opens September 1. Deer should remain in velvet until well after that date, maybe even until the middle of the month.

Learn more here.

Maine

The northernmost state in America, Maine isn’t just for sea duck and lobster enthusiasts. Whitetails call the place home, too. And those who like the thought of hunting on islands in the Atlantic should give it a try.

“A very mild winter last year and very high permit numbers issued after falling well short of our doe harvest objectives last year means there will be a lot of doe harvest opportunity to go around,” said Nathan Bieber with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. “Should be a high harvest year with hopefully higher-than-usual doe harvest.”

Learn more here.

Maryland

Likely one of the most underrated states in the nation, Maryland gets top honors from us. The deer hunting is great, pressure isn’t terrible, and herd dynamics are improving greatly.

“Maryland is a small state, but we have great deer numbers and trophy animals, particularly from our coastal plain soils,” said Brian Eyler, deer project leader with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “License prices are a real bargain for nonresidents for the bag limit that comes with them. Finding private locations to hunt can be very challenging. But we expect the harvest to be similar to last year.”

Learn more here.

Massachusetts

While not the best destination in the Northeast, it isn’t the worst. There’s some decent deer hunting here, and with a little legwork, success isn’t far off. The deer herd is improving in almost every way but has further to go than most states.

Those who like a high deer density can find it here. Some areas have 50 deer per square mile. That’s pretty high. For an increased challenge, scout some public-land properties in the areas of interest.

Learn more here.

New Hampshire

If you want high deer densities, and record-class deer, New Hampshire isn’t the place for you. But if you’re looking for a good state with mature bucks and ample opportunity, this Northeastern state offers that. It has good numbers of whitetails, and some of these are whoppers, considering its location.

It also has about 750,000 acres of public land, which is impressive considering its land mass. These properties come in the form of federal, state, county, municipal, paper company, and timber company lands. Find a spot away from the pressure and have a fun hunt.

Learn more here.

New Jersey

New Jersey is very similar to Vermont in size, shape, and deer hunting. Hunting pressure is pretty high, and land is limited, but if you can find a place to go, it just might produce. Put in the work to find your own honey hole.

Furthermore, if you come across someone, chances are good they’re a bowhunter. It’s one of the few states that has more archery hunters than gun enthusiasts.

Learn more here.

New York

Most people think of big cities when New York enters the discussion, but big whitetails are also found here. What’s more? More than 30% of the deer entered in the books from here have been entered in the past three decades.

New York also has more than 4 million acres of public land. Many of these are located in some pretty rough, rugged terrain. But you can find some older bucks here. That’s a good thing, if a mature deer is what you’re looking for.

Learn more here.

Pennsylvania

This place is one of the best areas of the region, especially in terms of hunting traditions. A high percentage of the population hunts, and the state reflects it. The wildlife agency works hard to protect its natural resources, for the benefit of wildlife and those who enjoy hunting it.

“Similar to Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, if you find a buck, there is a good chance he is a slammer,” said Jeannine Fleegle, wildlife biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “But this is a tough hunt in rugged country, and not for everyone.”

Learn more here.

Rhode Island

It’s the smallest state in the country, but it hunts bigger than it is. Finding a place to hunt might offer its challenges, but it can certainly be done. Knock on doors and scout available public lands.

“We provide ample opportunity with a lengthy hunting season with liberal bag limits and a muzzleloader season during the rut,” said Dylan Ferreira, senior wildlife biologist for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Fish and Wildlife. “Don’t be afraid to ask for private property permission. Look in our hunting and trapping abstract for a detailed map and table of huntable properties.”

Learn more here.

Vermont

Vermont is perhaps on one of the biggest upswings in the country, but it still hasn’t improved enough to change the grade. It’s rapidly getting better, though, and those who choose to hunt there likely won’t be disappointed. Opportunities abound.

“Recent buck harvests are as high as they’ve been since the 1990s,” said Nick Fortin, deer and moose project leader for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. “With recently expanded hunting opportunities, now is a good time to hunt Vermont. But deer activity changes with weather and food availability. Have a few different hunting spots, because deer may not be where they were earlier in the year, or where they were in previous years.”

Learn more here.

West Virginia

Things have improved for West Virginia in recent years, but not enough to change its grade. It still isn’t as good as neighboring states. Plus, chronic wasting disease is present, but fortunately it’s only been found in a small, confined area, away from the bulk of the best hunting.

It does have a lot of public land, though, including WMAs, state forests, and even some federal ground. Six of the state’s management areas have one-buck limits, which help to improve the overall buck age structure. Looking at the state as a whole, there are quite a few up-and-coming counties to be aware of.

Learn more here.

For more information on these states, and the rest of America, check out the latest information available on Realtree's Antler Nation.

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