Outdoor Articles

July Whitetail Management: Time To Plan Ahead

by Pursue The Outdoors on June 25th, 2005 in Management

By July most of the does should be done fawning. The fawns should be growing and following their mothers some of the time. The bucks are growing racks, and all the deer should be feeding on preferred foods.

Planning Ahead

Any type of deer management should take into account several different factors; herd size, buck to doe ratio, age structure of the herd, fawning rates, type of habitat, available food sources, seasonal use of the habitat; and hunting success by age, and sex. One of the first steps in deer management should be to determine the size and makeup of the herd. A fairly accurate count of all the animals should be taken to determine buck:doe ratio and fawning rates; to determine if the herd is in balance with the available habitat, so that overuse of the habitat by the deer does not occur; which could resulting in habitat destruction, poor nutrition, starvation, disease, stress, and poor reproduction and growth of the deer herd. You can start to produce a socially balanced deer herd: 1. By keeping the herd at or below the carrying capacity of the habitat. 2. By balancing the buck to doe ratio of the herd. 3. By ensuring that there are adequate numbers of both sexes and all ages classes of deer in the herd, so that maximum breeding occurs at the appropriate time of the year.

You can find out how many deer there are in the area by having several different people counting deer in different areas, at the same times, on several different days or nights. Be sure to determine the sex of all adult deer, and count all of the fawns. While you may miss some deer using this method, if you use the highest number of deer seen during any one time, you will have a fairly good estimation of the size and makeup of the deer herd n your area. You can also ask your local game managers how many deer they believe there are per square mile in your area. The game manager should also be able to tell you the carrying capacity of the land.

In order for any deer management program to work hunters and game managers must realize that:

  • The habitat can carry only so many deer, it makes no difference whether they are bucks or does. Once the number of deer exceeds the carrying capacity of the habitat there will eventually be habitat destruction, which can lead to disease, stress, and starvation of the deer. Or the deer, particularly younger bucks, will leave to find more suitable habitat, making them susceptible to injury and death by natural causes, hunting, or vehicle collisions.
  • Once the carrying capacity of the habitat has been determined, the total number of deer should be kept below that capacity, so that there is adequate nutrition in winter, and in case of forage and habitat loss due to natural causes.
  • Because the habitat can carry only so many deer, and one of the goals of deer management should be to ensure that there are appropriate numbers of both sexes, and all age classes of deer, one of the first objectives should be to balance the buck to doe ratio of the herd. The best way to increase the buck:doe ratio is to remove some of the does. In order to keep the buck:doe ratio stabilized an appropriate number of both bucks and does should be removed every year.
  • To increase the average age of the bucks in the herd younger bucks must be allowed to reach four to five years of age, which is when they should be the dominant breeding bucks. It may be four to five years before there are significant numbers of older bucks available to achieve all the breeding at the proper time.
  • The oldest and youngest deer, and bucks that are exhausted from the rut, are usually the weakest and the first to die. In order to keep weaker deer alive when they are under stress their health needs must be provided for. With the threat of infectious diseases, the best way to provide for the nutritional needs of the deer is through habitat improvement, and food plots; not through supplemental feeding.
  • Increased deer attraction to a particular property, improved survival and fawning rates, and increased body and antler size can be achieved by providing adequate cover and water, planting deer forage and browse, and providing year round minerals. Supplemental feed can be supplied (only where CWD and TB are not a concern) in the winter and early spring when deer are stressed.

This article is adapted from The Deer Manager’s Manual, and the Deer Addict’s Manual, Volume 1.

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