MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Deer hunters had a successful season in 2020, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

While final numbers won't be available for several weeks biologists estimate hunters in Vermont took around 18,000 deer, the highest total since 2000.

During the archery season hunters took closed to 5,800 deer, a record for that season.

Hunters weren’t quite as successful during the regular firearm and muzzleloader seasons, but final harvest numbers for those seasons will be close to or above average the 10-year average.

Officials say changes to hunting regulations likely played a role in the increase, but so did a spike in hunting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The primary goal of Vermont’s deer management strategy is to keep the deer herd stable, healthy and in balance with available habitat.

“Maintaining an appropriate number of deer on the landscape ensures deer and the habitats that support them remain in good condition and productive,” said Nick Fortin, the department’s deer project leader.