You may not be a hunter, but I guarantee if you garden you have wanted to manage a deer or two in the past, and you probalby know a deer hunter that might enjoy this article.
There are still those out there that subscribe to the, “if it’s brown it’s down” philosophy, but many hunters across the state are trying to manage their deer herd to produce enjoyable hunting experiences and larger trophy bucks. When trying to decide how to manage your deer herd, there are several factors to consider.
First, it is the does in a given area that determine the differences that you will see in population. Depending on food and cover does can have 2 fawns, 1 fawn, or even no fawns. Population growth will occur if the number of fawns exceeds the number of animals harvested. This population can continue to grow up to a certain point. Once the population exceeds the available food supply fewer fawns will be born, antler development suffers, body weight decreases, and the population begins to decline.
Antler development in bucks is a result of three factors: Genetics, Age and Nutrition. Most deer hunters know and would agree that age is the major limiting factor in antler development in Georgia. Meaning that deer are not allowed to mature and grow larger antlers. In some areas of Georgia, deer grow too much older ages, but nutrition is the limiting factor in antler development. In any part of Georgia as populations reach the carrying capacity of the area supplemental feeding can insure antler development does not suffer.
The deer that you and your neighbors hunt are the result of many factors; food supply, population, reproduction, mortality, movement, and weather all play a part in determining number and quality of your deer herd. We are blessed in Georgia to have very generous bag limits on bucks and antlerless deer which allows great flexibility in how we manage our deer herd.
There are 4 basic strategies to deer herd management and some considerations that each hunting club or landowner must take into account. The first thing to consider is the size of a property. Mobility and home range of deer is both a blessing and a curse. You never know when your neighbor might get a chance to harvest the trophy bucks you have been managing on your property. Good recordkeeping is also a major consideration when trying to reach any of the following objectives. If good records are not kept (sex ratios, deer counts, age classes, weights) it is hard to determine if you are making any progress to your goal.
The following four objectives as well as strategies to reach each can be found in the Georgia DNR publication, “Deer Herd Management for Georgia Hunters”
1. Maximum Population Objective: Large numbers seen while hunting and relatively large harvest, but poor size and antler growth
2. Maximum Harvest Objective: Large number of deer harvested, few trophy bucks due to young age of harvested deer.
3. Quality Deer Objective: Harvest consists mostly of does, and large tracts are usually necessary due to hunting pressure. Antler and age restrictions must be enforced and recorded.
4. Trophy buck objective: The same as the quality deer objective with stricter requirements for bucks harvested. Larger tracts of land are required for this to be effective.
All of this and more can be found on the Georgia Department of Natural Resources website. Go to the main page http://www.georgiawildlife.org/ and enter your topic in the search box. You can find information on species and management from alligators to quail. There is also a program offered by the state that I think many people are unaware of. If you want some serious help managing your deer herd, you may want to look into the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP). There are several levels of management offered that could help you improve your deer herd and your enjoyment when hunting.