helps the Department to manage deer numbers at the county level. However, landowners and hunters can do a great deal to maintain deer numbers at the local level. There are three simple guidelines for managing deer populations.
- To reduce deer numbers—harvest more does than antlered bucks.
- To maintain deer numbers—harvest equal numbers of does and antlered bucks.
- To increase deer numbers—harvest very few does and mostly antlered bucks.
While these generalizations will get you headed in the right direction, more specific recommendations require the collection of data. There are three types of data that are most useful when determining how many does to harvest.
- Harvest data
- Observation data
- Census data
Harvest data is collected from every deer taken during the hunting season and any additional deer that are found dead throughout the year. It’s important to document deer that have been found dead as hemorrhagic disease outbreaks and other causes of mortality can affect harvest rates in the years to follow.
Deer populations in most of rural Missouri are limited by harvest. Therefore, the number of deer taken during the hunting seasons affects the population size, both regionally and locally. While most Missouri counties have liberal bag limits for antlerless deer, hunting pressure and deer numbers on properties vary widely. This means that making deer harvest decisions for your property based solely on county deer regulations can produce unwanted results. Because harvest has such a significant effect on deer population size, harvest data can reveal a great deal about the local deer population and help make sound management decisions. However, harvest data must be collected carefully and consistently. It is important to collect the data from each deer harvested and in the same manner every time.
At a minimum you should record the date of harvest, sex and age of every deer harvested on your property. Making harvest recommendations usually requires harvest data from the previous two or three years. By comparing harvest and observational data over a number of years, you can evaluate the effectiveness of harvest recommendations in meeting management objectives.
Collecting observation data is one of the easiest and most cost-effective methods for gathering information on the composition of a deer herd. When collected and analyzed appropriately, observational data can be extremely useful in determining several important deer herd population characteristics, such as relative deer abundance, fawn recruitment, age structure and