Sambar by Jared Matthews
There are now nearly 50,000 licensed deer hunters in Victoria. Photo: Jared Matthews

Deer hunting’s post-COVID boom: 50,000 licensed hunters in Victoria

Deer hunting’s popularity has grown enormously in Victoria, with nearly 50,000 licensed hunters in the state harvesting almost 120,000 deer in 2021, according to Victoria’s Game Management Authority (GMA).

DEER hunting continues to grow in popularity in Victoria, with nearly 50,000 licensed hunters in the state harvesting nearly 120,000 deer in 2021, according to Victoria’s Game Management Authority (GMA).

The Authority has released its Estimates of the 2021 Deer Harvest in Victoria report, showing a lot of positive numbers for hunters and, by extension, rural Victoria.

According to the report, 49,857 licensed hunters harvested 118,900 deer last year – representing a 20% increase in the number of deer hunters compared with 2020 and a 70% increase in the number of harvested deer.

However, this is still well below the pre-COVID peak of 173,800 deer taken in 2019; there were fewer than 42,000 licensed hunters that year.

The majority of the deer harvested were sambar (68,916), followed by fallow (35,351). Red deer were a distant third (2877), trailed by chital (421) and hog deer (223); no rusa deer were listed as harvested.

While the numbers show significant increases, it is worth noting the 2020 season was significantly impacted by Victoria’s COVID lockdown restrictions, with GMA Research Principal Dr Jason Flesch saying the increase in deer harvest numbers were a result of more active hunters in the field during the 2021 deer hunting season.

“The easing of restrictions on travel and recreational activity during 2021 has likely led to an increase in hunter activity. This has resulted in an increase in the estimated number of deer harvested in 2021,” he said.

The deer harvest numbers for 2021 are not only an increase over 2020, but also represent a 49% increase on the long term average

The report also notes that 36 per cent of the state’s licensed hunters actively hunted in 2021, harvesting an estimated 2.53 deer each – in other words, plenty of full freezers among Victoria’s hunting community.

Interestingly, the report also notes deer harvest and hunting day totals in 2021 were possibly still being affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

“While these totals increased compared with 2020, which had more restrictions and also the immediate aftermath of the Black Summer bushfires, they were still below the peak of 2019,” it said.




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.