The whitetail deer………..so much can be said about this one game animal and even that would not adequately convey the importance it has had in the history, survival, and conservation, of the hunting industry. The fur trade and unregulated market hunting of this animal nearly drove it to extinction in the 1800’s until The Lacy Act was enacted in 1900. The Lacy Act was the first federal law written for the protection of wildlife and would prove to be the savior of many game species, particularly the whitetail deer. It was the first step towards the wildlife conservation laws and regulations that we have today.
But, the whitetail deer was not out of the woods yet, no pun intended, as he would once again be challenged for his survival. During the great depression, venison became an affordable source of protein and once again the lack of hunting regulation led to the population decline. In some parts of the country deer were all but eliminated from the countryside. While in other areas, populations were allowed to thrive as people left the family farms and homesteads for towns and cities in search of work. Recognizing the resilience and adaptability of the whitetail deer, many conservation organizations and state departments were created to increase the efforts to conserve populations, regulate hunting, and repopulate areas robbed of deer and other wildlife. By the 1970’s deer populations were beginning to steadily increase.
Populations rose throughout the 1980’s and 90’s until the whitetail deer became the most widely distributed deer species in the world. Conservation efforts made it the poster-child for wildlife come-back stories and its accessibility quickly made it the most popular game species. Deer hunting is now big business and its popularity brings in millions of dollars of revenue each year for state and federal conservation efforts. The acknowledgement of the whitetail deer’s value by our grandparents and the tremendous success in its restoration, helped to create and drive the laws and regulations that allow us to enjoy the hunting experiences we have today.