Deer Herd Management for Georgia Hunters

Establish Herd Objectives

To obtain the most enjoyment from hunting, you and your hunting partners should decide upon one of four objectives for the deer herd and then take the necessary steps (presented later in this publication) to reach your objective. See the list of objectives, with advantages and disadvantages, below:

Maximum Population Objective

This objective provides a large deer population.

Advantages:

  • Large number of deer seen while hunting
  • Relatively high deer harvest

Disadvantages:

  • Poor antler development and body size
  • Poor reproduction
  • Sex ratio often highly skewed toward does
  • Severe habitat damage in some years, with permanent damage possible
  • Depressed, erratic rutting season
Maximum Harvest Objective

This objective provides the highest long-term deer harvest per unit area.

Advantages:

  • Large number of deer harvested each year
  • Young bucks in good condition with good antler development
  • No damage to long-term food supply or carrying capacity of land

Disadvantages:

  • Fewer deer seen (than maximum population objective) while hunting
  • Few trophy bucks harvested because most bucks are taken at very young age
Quality Deer Objective

This objective is very similar to option 2 except that hunting pressure is reduced on the buck portion of the herd to produce some older animals for the next year.  Large tracts (over 1,000 acres) are usually required for successful management.

Advantages:

  • Relatively large number of does in the harvest
  • Bucks have good antler development and body weight
  • Behavior of young bucks is observed and enjoyed

Disadvantages:

  • Difficult to define "quality" or "trophy" as it varies by area of the state and by individual clubs and members
  • Some nice young bucks must be passed up, or length of season voluntarily shortened, or buck bag limit voluntarily reduced by hunters
  • Much of harvest will be comprised of does
  • Some young bucks will be lost to hunters on surrounding properties and to other sources of mortality
Trophy Buck Objective

This objective provides for production of trophy antlers.

Advantages:

  • Antler development and buck age structures are maximized
  • Reproductive capability of does is maximized

Disadvantages:

  • Very few deer seen while hunting
  • Total deer harvest is low
  • Many bucks must be passed up
  • More bucks die of natural causes, road kill, or surrounding hunting pressure
  • Accurate field judging of antlers is necessary
  • Very large acreages (over 3,000 acres) are required to be effective
  • Strict, tough penalties for violating the rules must be imposed to make it work

Once an option is chosen, a harvest strategy must be designed to move your herd toward the objective.  Three approaches are possible:

  1. Stabilize the herd by using a balanced either-sex harvest.
  2. Increase herd size by limiting doe harvest.
  3. Decrease herd size by increasing the doe harvest.

How do you know which approach is necessary to reach your objective for the deer herd?  First of all, you must know the current status of the herd relating to certain key condition and population indices.  Even though there are several rules of thumb which may get you started, this status can best be determined by accurate record collection and interpretation of these records by a trained wildlife biologist.






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