Record Deer Hunt On Nantucket During 2022 Season

Jason Graziadei •

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Hunters on Nantucket set an all-time record for the number of deer killed in a single season in 2022, harvesting 824 deer from the island during the last three months of the year.

State wildlife officials this week attributed the increase to Nantucket's large and growing deer population. The island has one of the densest deer populations in the state, with approximately 50 per square mile, pegging the total number between 4,000 and 6,000 deer.

The record setting hunt in 2022 was "mostly a function of an increasing deer herd, not anything deer management or hunter related," said Martin Feehan, the deer and moose project leader for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW). The agency's records go back to 1997.

The harvest of 824 deer in 2022 on Nantucket includes all the various types of permitted deer hunting: archery, shotgun, and primitive firearms. While shotgun season continued to be the largest segment of the deer hunt (444 deer), it was the actually the archery hunting that hit a new high for the year (265 deer).

The DFW did make some changes to the deer hunting regulations in eastern Massachusetts in 2022 - including allowing hunters to take an unlimited number of female deer in the eastern management zones - but Feehan said that was not a factor in Nantucket's tally.

"There were not actually any major changes in 2022 for Nantucket," Feehan said. "While we made antlerless permits available over the counter in WMZs (wildlife management zones) 10, 11, 13 and 14, Zone 14/Nantucket has not sold out of surplus antlerless permits since 1988. So effectively there hasn’t been a cap on antlerless permits on Nantucket in almost 40 decades. As you can see in the graph (below) the harvest was just a continuation over the trend we have had on Nantucket since the 2005 season."

Nantucket's new record deer harvest number exceeded (by one deer) the previous record set in 2004, but that season included the infamous February deer hunt, when the state added an extra week of shotgun hunting on Nantucket following the normal hunting seasons. The initiative was implemented to help reduce Nantucket's deer population and help control tick borne diseases, but the extra week being the only deer hunting allowed in Massachusetts during that time prompted hunters from around the state to descend on Nantucket. There were numerous issues, including hunters on private property, errant shots, and deer gut piles being left behind in numerous areas, sparking an outcry from island residents. The special hunt was promptly canceled.

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