Minnesota’s deer population management program will be audited this year by the state’s Legislative Auditor — a move pushed by some deer hunters critical of the Department of Natural Resources deer management
“In the current plan we actually have objectives and were fairly well able to achieve those until the last five or six years,” said Kent Gustafson, wildlife program administrator at Fish and Game.
Unlike the current plan, the proposal would allow the state to change the goals to reflect what’s happening with moose.
“We can’t stick to these come hell or high water. We have to be able to maneuver should things continue to change,” said Kristine Rines, the moose project leader. “It may simply become impossible to even think we’re going to reach the goals.”<<<Read More>>>
Staten Island, New York covers about 102 square miles, has a human population of just under half a million and nearly 800 whitetail deer. It’s my guess that people on Staten Island are perceiving deer as a nuisance because they are killing the deer and leaving them to rot, or in some cases cutting off heads for the antlers.
Out on Long Island, more deer troubles (too many deer?). Dead deer are being found on on the railroad tracks in East Quogue. It’s described as a “mystery.” With an estimated deer population in 2013 of between 25,000 and 35,000 deer, along with a failed effort to reduce the deer herd in this same area of eastern Long Island by up to 3,000, is it really honest to label as a mystery that deer are being killed on the railroad tracks?
When NPR asked a New Hampshire deer biologist how they went about guessing how many deer the state had, the answer was…well, it was…actually, I don’t know what the hell it was. But the response went like this:
For deer, this is the two-year running average of the adult buck-kill. That’s kind of what we use as an index to the trend in the population. That’s kind of the best index we have.
And that’s it? Go figure. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong but I have a strong suspicion that deer hunting in New Hampshire, and probably Maine and Vermont, generate the most income in order to fund each state’s fish and (no game, just) wildlife departments. And, this is the best explanation a deer biologist from New Hampshire could come up with to explain how counting deer is done.
Is it important to know how many deer each state has? Geez! I would think so. If you don’t know, how do you know how many deer should be killed each year? Is this one of the reasons deer populations in Northern New England are struggling? Maybe. Ask any biologist though and they’ll probably say it’s being caused by global warming. But let’s not get into that.
One might conclude that New Hampshire’s “model” of guessing is pretty pathetic. What it sounds to me that they do, is count the number of adult bucks harvested during the hunting season for two consecutive years. They use that data to somehow wave a magic wand and then after repeating the “magic” incantations, guess how many deer there are. That’s sad…isn’t it?
If you think that’s sad, then how damned sad is it when a state can’t even count to know how many adult buck deer were taken during a deer hunting season? That’s beyond sad. It’s down right pathetic.
As of this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), has not posted on their website the harvest numbers from last November’s deer hunting season. God, we’ve all been down this road so many times, but nothing ever changes.
Some have asked me what difference does it make? I think it makes a lot of difference. Seriously, do I need to explain why? But forget what I think or whether you care. If Maine uses anything like New Hampshire’s methods, and they count adult buck deer killed to guesstimate deer populations, how can they responsibly manage deer – like how many “Any-Deer Permits” to issue if they can’t count deer?
So, I can only guess what is going on. Either MDIFW is terrible at managing deer or they won’t release the deer harvest numbers because they are hiding something. What else could it be? And, as an aside, MDIFW hasn’t posted the bear harvest data either.
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
“By shooting so many juvenile bucks, Wisconsin hunters prevent deer herds from producing well-balanced age structures and buck-to-doe ratios. Wisconsin’s 2013 buck kill was comprised of 61 percent 1.5-year-olds, 24 percent 2.5-year-olds, and 15 percent 3.5-year-olds and older. Maine was the only other state with an equally low percentage of older bucks. Yearlings made up 53 percent of its buck harvest.
The 2013 national average for the yearling buck percentage was 36 percent, with Arkansas leading the country at 8 percent. Other states with few yearlings in the statewide buck kill were Louisiana, 15 percent; Oklahoma, 20 percent; and Kansas, 21 percent.”<<<Read More>>>
“The Pennsylvania Game Commission today reported that, in the state’s 2014-15 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 303,973 deer – a decrease of about 14 percent compared to the 2013-14 harvest of 352,920.
Hunters took 119,260 antlered deer in the 2014-15 seasons – a decrease of about 11 percent compared to the previous license year, when an estimated 134,280 bucks were taken. Also, hunters harvested an estimated 184,713 antlerless deer in 2014-15, which represents an about 16 percent decrease compared to the 218,640 antlerless deer taken in 2013-14.”<<<Read More>>>
Survey asks hunters how weather and moonlight impact deer movements; research to test beliefs.
The moon is nearly full, will deer be moving only at night?
Is the cold front that’s coming through the reason deer are out feeding?
In answering questions like these, deer hunters often rely on common wisdom. But are such truisms really true?<<<Read More>>>
I’m glad we have the terminology down pat. Hunting evidently is bad. Systematic slaughtering of deer, while luring them to bait, is good, providing the corporate-fascist government runs the “program” and the socialist-communist society approve. I think it was bad to hunt and kill deer until “the habitat destroyed”, “unhealthy”, “not enough food”, “particularly stressed”, “deep snow”, “more frequently seen”, “both alive and dead”, “18,000 deer-vehicle accidents”, “deer-vehicle accidents”.
Hunting bad! Deer Removal Program good! The only thing good about it is the food isn’t being wasted; or at least that is what is being told to us.
The other day George Smith wrote in his column in the Bangor Daily News:
The differences between deer and moose management are fascinating. In areas of the state with few deer, we still allow unlimited harvests of bucks. But Lee [Kantar, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife head moose biologist and former head deer biologist] says any increase in the harvest of bull moose will negatively impact the quality of those bulls. Do we not care about the quality of our bucks?
This prompted me to start asking around from those that would know about this sort of thing and where I might actually get an answer. It is a complex issue where one element does not necessarily control the “quality” of bucks or bull moose. The first hurdle would be to determine what is meant by “quality”.
One might gather from this short statement, a claim made by Smith, that there appears to be a concern for preserving and/or protecting the quality of bull moose. Fine. Does there exist the same feeling toward protecting the quality of Maine’s whitetail deer buck population? I certainly can’t answer that question, only to resort to the plan that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) devises every 15 years and the most recent amendment to that plan in the Maine’s Game Plan for Deer. I will say that, while certain aspects of the plans are followed, too much of it seems to be treated as suggestions rather that actual management goals that are worked at to achieve.
In my mind there is a difference between a “quality” deer herd or even a quality buck population and “trophy” deer. Those would need to be defined. Yet, in my mind a quality deer herd would contain a desired population percentage of trophy animals.
Troubling in the statement made above is that it leaves readers second guessing what the MDIFW is thinking about growing quality bucks and/or trophy bucks. If, as Smith points out, there is unlimited take on antlered deer, even in Wildlife Management Areas where overall deer populations are low, is this a sign that there is little concern about a “quality” deer population, or a “quality” buck population, or a “trophy” deer population?
I asked Dr. Charles Kay, Wildlife Ecology, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University, about this issue. He sent me a copy of an article he wrote and was published in the November/December issue of MuleyCrazy Magazine – 2008. The article deals mostly with what is required to grow trophy mule deer, i.e. “large antlered” mule deer and Kay well points out that mule deer do not achieve maximum antler growth until 6-8 years of age.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that in Maine are we discussing “quality” deer/bucks (ideal deer populations) and/or “trophy” bucks? In addition to trophy mule deer, Kay gives us a lesson as well in how to grow and maintain quality deer populations that just might solve the concern over trophy deer. He writes:
“Based on studies of other cervids, three factors are key to growing large-antlered mule deer – genetics, nutrition and age. First and foremost is age. The deer simply must live long enough to reach their full biological potential. Bull elk, for instance, do not achieve maximum antler growth until they are 7 to 10 years old. Mule deer bucks too do not achieve maximum antler growth until they are 6 to 8 years. To have mule deer of that age, you need 60 to 80 bucks per 100 does post hunt – a figure most sportsmen can only wish they had. If your post-hunt sex ratios are in the range of 10 to 15 bucks per 100 does or less, as is the case in many mule deer herds, the chances of a deer living long enough to produce maximum antler development is between zero and non-existent.
“The only way to achieve the necessary post-hunt sex ratios and age structure is to curtail the buck harvest. [emphasis added] Point restrictions will not work: a fact that has been proven time and again. A four-point minimum antler size might appeal to hunters, but it will do absolutely nothing to produce trophy mule deer, because hunters simply shoot the first small four-point they see and few deer live long enough to reach maximum antler growth. So while point restrictions will increase the average age of the bucks harvested by a year or so, point restrictions, in and of themselves, will do nothing to produce trophy mule deer. Instead only limited-entry seasons have the potential to produce quality mule deer and then only if state game departments do not oversell the number of permits. This is usually not a problem with whitetails since virtually all the land in the Midwest, Texas and back East is privately owned. If the landowner or leasee wants to grow trophy whitetails, it is a relatively simple matter to restrict the harvest. [emphasis added] In fact, according to Dr. James Kroll, who has spent most of his career studying whitetails and who has written a 590-page book on A Practical Guide to Producing and Harvesting White-tailed Deer, it is much easier to raise a trophy whitetail than it is to kill that deer!…
“Under quality management, it is possible to produce a Boone and Crockett whitetail in as little as 3 or 4 years!…
“To produce trophy deer, the animals simply must have a year-long diet of high quality foods. Which brings us to the number one problem in rearing trophy whitetails – too many deer. If the deer population is not kept at one half, or less, of the land’s carrying capacity, the deer will simply not grow big enough to develop large antlers. That is to say, antler quality is density dependent.”
We come back to the question of why, in Maine, does it appear that an unrestricted bull moose hunt would have a negative effect on the herd and an unrestricted buck deer hunt does not?
Certainly much of Maine doesn’t fall into the category Kay wrote about that the problem with growing trophy bucks is too many deer. In many Wildlife Management Areas, overall deer populations are, not only half or less of the carrying capacity, they are near unsustainable levels. What is the buck to doe ratios, post hunt, in these areas? We dunno. It’s like pulling teeth to get the data. I’ve asked before about getting the data and….I gave up.
I would wager that if Mr. Kantar is not willing to offer suggestions to the Joint Standing Committee on what to do about winter ticks on moose, because he doesn’t have enough data, why then should we think there is enough data to know all the conditions pertaining to the moose herd that a determination can be made that killing more bull moose would have a negative effect on the herd?
And has whitetail deer hunting in Maine just become a cash cow? The process has always been that if Maine wanted to grow the population of deer in an area, just limit the number of “Any-Deer” permits. Is that still working? Does it still work in areas with very small deer numbers? If it is working, why aren’t we seeing more deer in those areas where there’s no deer and permits have been reduced? Or have they? Ah, it’s not that simple is it.
If, as Dr. Kay says, in an area where you really want to grow trophy deer, “restrict the harvest”, that certainly has been accomplished because there are so few deer to harvest. Should we then just close the deer hunting season in those areas? Or is this contrary to growing quality deer?
The carrying capacity is far below 50% in many places and the harvest is limited only through the issuance of “Any-Deer” permits because there just aren’t any deer. So then there must be other problems. Yes, there are but I don’t think it’s responsible to just keep blaming it on habitat and climate. I might buy into the habitat argument if I didn’t enter the forest where thousands of acres of prime deer habitat lay vacant. And if a warming climate was a problem, then Maine would be starting to grow too many deer and less moose and Canada lynx.
Maybe there are other problems!
It seems to me, and I might assume here that Dr. Kay would agree with me, this discussion about growing quality and/or trophy deer is dependent upon certain elements of the deer growing and maintainance equation exist in order to accomplish the tasks Kay points out. He says genetics, nutrition and age are necessary to grow quality deer. It seems Maine’s problem isn’t growing quality deer, it’s growing deer.
Maybe an examination of the Maine Antler, Skull and Trophy Club data on “quality” deer harvest in Maine over the past several years will give a better indication about growing quality and trophy deer.
It seems to me that the size of the trophy deer is diminishing slightly, but I still contend that Maine’s bigger problem is growing deer. So long as the mantra persists that it’s the climate change and the loss of habitat, Rome will keep burning.
In the meantime, the Quality Deer Management Association recently released its 2015 Whitetail Report, which is based on 2013-14 season numbers.
There are 37 states that provide data to QDMA for its annual report.
Basically, it’s every state but those in the West.
For Pennsylvania, the non-profit organization uses data submitted by the PA Game Commission.<<<Read More>>>