Evolution of Deer Management

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 17, 2010

Changing Deer Regulations

outbreak had also seen hemorrhagic-related deaths in 2005 and 2006.

Unlimited antlerless permits and additional opportunities to harvest antlerless deer do not constitute site-specific harvest recommendations but provide the flexibility for landowners and hunters to make the management decisions that are appropriate for their individual situation.

An appropriate level of doe harvest is the key to successful deer management. In some areas, harvest pressure exceeds the growth rate of the population and a regulation change is necessary to reduce doe harvest. In 2008, in response to declining deer numbers in southwest Missouri, several counties were changed from unlimited firearms antlerless to one antlerless permit in an attempt to reduce doe harvest and allow populations to recover.

Buck Harvest

Buck-only seasons were a popular management tool for biologists when deer populations in Missouri were small and increasing deer numbers was desirable. Buck harvest generally has little impact on the growth of deer populations, while providing harvest opportunities. However, if buck harvest is too intense, it can have negative impacts on the population as it changes buck age structure, sex ratios and timing of breeding.

In 2004, antler point restrictions were instituted to shift harvest pressure from bucks to does and has the potential to decrease the proportion of does in the population and reduce the total number of deer that need to be harvested to maintain stable populations. Additionally, antler restrictions reduce yearling buck harvest resulting in the recruitment of more bucks into older age classes. Antler point restrictions were successful in meeting the goal of reducing the harvest of yearling bucks and have increased doe harvest in central Missouri. Due to the success of reducing yearling buck harvest, increased doe harvest in some areas and widespread popularity, antler point restrictions were expanded from 29 counties to 65 in 2008.

The new APR counties followed a trend similar to the counties added in 2004. We saw a 32-percent decrease in buck harvest in the new APR counties north of the Missouri River and a 38-percent decline in west central Missouri, while doe harvest increased 4 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Despite the overall decline in the total number of deer harvested in 2008, doe harvest increased 2 percent, while buck harvest declined 21 percent. This means there is increasingly a larger proportion of adult bucks in the population and fewer does.

Season Length and Timing

Another method biologists use to affect the age and sex structure of the

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