a number of factors that create differences in deer numbers.
- Variation in ownership patterns
- Property size
- Hunter density
- Habitat condition
- Fawn recruitment (number of fawns surviving to the fall)
- Sex ratio (number of does per buck)
The variability in individual landowners’ deer management goals creates a dynamic landscape in terms of deer numbers over even small distances.
Inside the Numbers
There is no question that an increase in hunting opportunities combined with unlimited antlerless permits, implementation of antler point restrictions and localized hemorrhagic disease outbreaks have reduced deer numbers in several northern, central and western Missouri counties from peak population levels in the mid-2000s. Liberalization of harvest regulations on antlerless deer has helped to stabilize and even decrease deer numbers in many areas where significant damage and deer numbers were too high. As deer numbers have decreased and reach more acceptable levels, the continued availability of antlerless permits is concerning to hunters in some counties. A look inside the numbers reveals some important trends regarding the use of antlerless permits.
Despite the unlimited availability of antlerless permits, only 1 percent of archery hunters and 2 percent of firearms hunters harvest three or more deer. Of the 9,270 individuals harvesting deer on archery antlerless permits, 93 percent harvested two or fewer antlerless deer. Of the 65,026 individuals harvesting deer on firearms antlerless permits, 95 percent harvested two or fewer antlerless deer. While the vast majority of hunters are not utilizing these permits, limiting them would reduce landowners’ ability to shoot the number of does appropriate to their specific management goals.
If we take a closer look at the harvest impacts of reducing antlerless permits from unlimited to one, we predict a 10–15 percent decrease in total antlerless harvest. If we went from unlimited antlerless to two antlerless permits, we might expect a 5–8 percent decrease in total antlerless harvest.
As we continue to investigate ways to better manage deer numbers, an additional category of antlerless permits could provide a finer degree of control than what is currently provided by zero, one or unlimited antlerless permits. However, a reduction in the availability of antlerless permits does not guarantee that those permits will be used in the appropriate locations. Ultimately, landowners and hunters are the key to management of deer populations. They are the ones who control harvest and dictate local deer numbers.
Property Specific Harvest Rates
The quantity of antlerless permits available