Nature Lab

By Bonnie Chasteen | September 1, 2019
From Missouri Conservationist: September 2019

Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.

Human Dimensions

Deer Hunter and Landowner Surveys

Did Missouri’s hunters see more or fewer deer when they were afield compared to last hunting season? Are landowners happy with deer numbers in their area, or do they feel the need for change? To answer questions like these, MDC’s Deer Program has been mailing surveys to Missourians since 1973.

The surveys include questions about perceived changes in the deer population, such as number of big bucks and total deer, as well as opinions about deer population size and trends.

“Deer biologists want to manage for a healthy and sustainable deer population,” said MDC Animal Resource Scientist Kevyn Wiskirchen. “We work to keep the population within social carrying capacity.”

This means keeping deer numbers within the range of what local people desire and will tolerate.

“Damage to crops or gardens and risk of vehicle collisions with deer create the need to keep populations in check,” Wiskirchen said. When social issues such as these arise, his team considers “management actions that allow hunters to bring deer levels lower. When numbers dip below desired levels, we may need to restrict harvest and allow populations to increase.”

Data on specific days hunted and number of deer killed are important, both for a “trips-per-harvest” estimate and to better understand when hunters are spending time afield. “Trips-per-harvest measures the average amount of effort required for a successful hunt and tends to decrease as populations increase. This measure often influences hunter satisfaction and is also an important indicator of deer population trends,” Wiskirchen said.

Deer Hunter and Landowner Surveys at a Glance

Survey Range
  • County-by-county across Missouri’s 114 counties
  • Number of firearms and archery deer hunter surveys mailed per cycle
  • Number of USDA agricultural land and deer surveys mailed per cycle
All-Time High
  • Archers harvested a state record 51,991 deer last season
Selected 2017 Survey Results
  • Compound bow hunters had a similar success rate and wounding rate compared to crossbow hunters
  • Archers who used a crossbow increased 5% from 2016 to 2017
  • 81% of firearms hunters hunt exclusively on private land
  • Most firearms and archery hunters believe there are about the right number of deer

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler