Vineyard hunters had a successful season, bringing in the fourth-highest number of deer since the state began collecting data nearly 40 years ago.

Islanders pulled in roughly 824 deer during the period from Oct. 2 to Dec. 30, according to preliminary state data. The total for hunting zone 13, which comprises the Vineyard and the surrounding Elizabeth Islands, is 844 — a two per cent increase from last year.

This season’s harvest is the largest since 2020 and continues an upward trend over the past three years. The local record remains 1,119 deer in 2019.

“We had big numbers during [the Covid pandemic] because people were spending more time outdoors,” said Martin Feehan, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife deer and moose project leader. “We had a big dip when things started opening back up and traveling to the Island was still really expensive . . . . Seems like it’s all starting to normalize now.”

The Agricultural Society’s community deer cooler was proof of the season’s success, said cooler supervisor Patrick Roden-Reynolds. In mid-November, the cooler held as many as 35 carcasses at a time. In total, 90 deer were placed in the cooler this season.

“I nearly ran out of space at one point,” said Mr. Roden-Reynolds. “I maybe had one more spot to hang a deer until I’d need to call hunters and have them pick up some. I had to get creative and find new ways to fit in more deer.”

Bow hunting provided the largest numbers, which has a longer season at eight-weeks than the shotgun and primitive firearms seasons, which span two weeks each.

Cooler intake was lighter during both shotgun and primitive firearm weeks, Mr. Roden-Reynolds said, but hunters were still consistently bringing in game.

Island Grown Initiative (IGI) received a record 15 deer for its venison donation program, which distributes meat through its Prepared Meals program, the Island Food Pantry and Kinship Heals resource center.

“We started the program in 2019... and this is by far the most deer we’ve ever gotten,” said IGI gleaning manager Astrid Tilton. “People are just really excited to have it even if they’ve never tried it . . . . We can always use more local protein sources and it’s exciting when we can diversify that supply a little.”

Ms. Tilton began overseeing the donation program in 2020 and has spent the last three years perfecting her butchering skills. She said she prides herself in being able to process every part of the deer. Even the hides, she said, are given away to locals.

“I really don’t find it all that gross,” she said. “Eating local meat is important to me personally. I figure that if I’m going to eat it I also have to know how it’s being done.”