November 29, 2022

How Accurate Are State Deer Harvest Estimates?

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According to an article found at Outdoor Life“Hunters want it [deer harvest estimate] to be important, but they also don’t believe it. They say how can you know how many deer were killed if you didn’t check my deer? And that’s true. These estimates aren’t down to the individual deer, but scientifically this is an accurate and proven way to estimate deer harvest. Trends, though, are most important.”

It is my opinion that what hunters are interested in, at least initially, is a report from state wildlife officials as to the deer harvest, whether estimated or as accurate as it can be, in order to observe the trend taking place, and they don’t want to have to wait several months for that basic information. For those, like me, more interested in the actual harvest data, I understand having to wait a reasonable amount of time to get that data. For an “estimate” such guesses should be available within a few days of season closure.

But what of the science of deer management? If all wildlife officials are interested in is survey trends, I’m not so sure that I can have a lot of faith that the management plan is being laid out properly if the agency doesn’t know the population at any given point. There need be some kind of checks and balances in order to have confidence the modeling is working. Modeling has a poor track record. It would seem that using only trends would result in discovery too late in order to make adjustments.

Either way, the idea of the harvest estimates immediately concluding the deer hunting – or bear or moose, etc. – is for the hunters. It’s information they would like to have. It’s a way to inform them as to whether they are getting the best bang for their buck – pun intended.