Who is responsible for Deer Management?

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Published on: Oct. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

prefer not to compete with any deer for the crops they produce. Others are more willing to tolerate damage, or they own or lease the land for hunting purposes and would like to have large numbers of deer.

Most landowners are somewhere between. If the goal is to limit the number of deer, then the landowner should encourage as much hunting as is safe and require that hunters take does. If the goal is to increase the number of deer, then doe harvests should be reduced. However, the landowner should consider the consequences of having a lot of deer, not only on their own property but also on surrounding properties. Good stewardship includes consideration of your neighbors.

The actual number of deer to take will depend on the size and shape of the property, quality of habitat and conditions on surrounding properties. Size of land ownership will decide how much of a role outside factors may play in controlling deer. Deer often move over a square mile or more and, as a result, the ability to control them increases proportionally with ownership size. For example, a person with 40 acres will have less control over deer on his/her property than a person with 1,000 acres, especially if the deer do not use the smaller acreages during the hunting seasons.

The amount of hunting or other activity that occurs on adjacent properties is also important. If there is little hunting on land surrounding a property, it may be difficult to control deer numbers on that property. Conversely, if hunting pressure is high on surrounding properties, it may be difficult to produce more deer.

Quality of deer habitat and primary sources of food will control how much time deer spend on a property. Deer will shift movement patterns according to food distribution. For example, in a year with a good acorn crop, deer may select oak-hickory forests for foraging in the fall, instead of agricultural fields. Deer may favor agricultural fields other times of the year and in years of poor acorn production. These factors will influence deer use of a property during the hunting seasons.

Finally, the location of the property will affect how many deer to harvest each year. Deer densities and number of young tend to be highest in northern Missouri. Deer here can be cropped at a higher rate than in southern Missouri.

Land managers should keep track of deer taken during the hunting seasons and how deer populations seem to be responding. Hunting effort should correspond to what deer populations seem to be doing in relation to what is desired by the person who controls hunting access. The Conservation Department deer hunting regulations serve as a guide to harvest management, but each landowner must make decisions on a hunting program that best suits their needs. Truly, the land manager is the deer manager.

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