Specifically, how are you determining the carrying capacity of deer for your land?

Hoytvectrix

5 year old buck +
Hunting season has started for some or will start soon for most. Doe harvests are obviously a great tool for managing your deer herd. I've read a bunch on the importance of it, but most biologists or people seemingly in the know seem to be light on the details for deciding when and how much should be done.

What do you use for determining when and how many deer you should be harvesting?

Summer or fall browse pressure?
Winter browse?
Trail camera surveys?
 

Hoytvectrix

5 year old buck +
Some context. We have been aggressively expanding the food on our properties in Northern MO. The deer numbers have obviously increased but it isn't obvious if we should be more aggressive on taking does.
 

Bill

Administrator
No biologist here. But I grew up hunting in Pennsylvania when does were protected.
Not unusual to see a group of 20 Does and a spike. That was to many does.

In my neck of MO we’re a long way from that. Again no biologist. But I’d like 3 or 4 to 1. I’m finally at about 2 to 1 and things are better from the stand.

In PA back in the day a spike bred everything. In Mo today the spikes run around early but just feed in November.

Somewhere between 3 to 1 for me unless I see a negative affect.
 

Hoytvectrix

5 year old buck +
No biologist here. But I grew up hunting in Pennsylvania when does were protected.
Not unusual to see a group of 20 Does and a spike. That was to many does.

In my neck of MO we’re a long way from that. Again no biologist. But I’d like 3 or 4 to 1. I’m finally at about 2 to 1 and things are better from the stand.

In PA back in the day a spike bred everything. In Mo today the spikes run around early but just feed in November.

Somewhere between 3 to 1 for me unless I see a negative affect.
Is that ratio determined from stand sits or from trail cam info or both?
 

Bill

Administrator
Is that ratio determined from stand sits or from trail cam info or both?
Both, but the trail cam pics lie at times. In the summer bucks to does are probably around 1 to 1. I have lots of easy food.

Once hard horn comes on the bucks disperse and their numbers drop until late
December. In the fall it’s probably 1 buck to 2 or 3 does.

Again no biologist but it’s been working for us.
 

SwampCat

5 year old buck +
For me, about 2.5:1 does to bucks. But that doesnt nearly tell the whole story. It doesnt tell you anything about total deer density. Is that a deer per five acres or a deer per 60 acres. I average about a deer per five acres on my ground - based upon camera surveys. But, it isnt that high when you take into consideration my deer come and go off land that has a much lower density. And none of this takes into affect fawn recruitment. Simply put, total mortality can not exceed total recruitment. If your doe:fawn ratios are 1:1, you can kill a lot of deer without altering what you already have. If you have one doe to .3 fawns - like I normally have, that is a very low fawn recruitment and you probably ought to lay off the does.

I go mainly by the visual appearance of native browse - and fawn recruitment numbers.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
Up by me, it doesn't pay too much to worry about it. "Just one more year" often gets thwarted by a killer winter. We haven't had enough good years in a row to worry about true carrying capacity.
 

Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
If we could get to 2:1 I would be happy, that is the DNR's goal also. We are probably 4:1. When we had the deer donation for food program that the DNR sponsored, that really helped as hunters could take an extra doe or 2 and donate them. The woke activists complained that folks at food shelters should have better than venison ... idiots.

When we had earn-a-buck where you had to shoot a doe first to get your buck tag, buck hunting improved dramatically.
 
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b116757

5 year old buck +
I Wisconsin where I grew up there where way way way more deer hunters than here in Kansas so the natural ratio of 1:1 is much closer in Kansas in Wisconsin it was probably 10:1 and the poor or immature antlers where pretty common on bucks taken. Growing up in Wisconsin we could take two bucks a year one with rifle one with bow and many people did this with the greater number of hunters in general it made the ratio pretty lopsided. This was my experience in northern Wisconsin growing up. But none of this really has anything to do with carrying capacity. If your property is mostly edge habitat with a lot of open ground with cover in between your capacity could be very high also having some of the open ground in ag helps. If your ground is all open hard woods then the capacity will be much lower as it would also be much lower in a completely open field. Also supplemental feeding most certainly can have an affect on carrying capacity. I know some guys run gravity feeders with protein cubes in them year round probably a good idea I just haven’t gotten around to fooling with it myself.
 

Hoytvectrix

5 year old buck +
With the end goal being what?
A healthier herd. If we can increase the amount of food and then correct for what tends to happen over time - a proportional increase in does, we will have a larger impact on the overall herd. If we can do that, than we stand a better chance at seeing more mature bucks.
 

Hoytvectrix

5 year old buck +
I Wisconsin where I grew up there where way way way more deer hunters than here in Kansas so the natural ratio of 1:1 is much closer in Kansas in Wisconsin it was probably 10:1 and the poor or immature antlers where pretty common on bucks taken. Growing up in Wisconsin we could take two bucks a year one with rifle one with bow and many people did this with the greater number of hunters in general it made the ratio pretty lopsided. This was my experience in northern Wisconsin growing up. But none of this really has anything to do with carrying capacity. If your property is mostly edge habitat with a lot of open ground with cover in between your capacity could be very high also having some of the open ground in ag helps. If your ground is all open hard woods then the capacity will be much lower as it would also be much lower in a completely open field. Also supplemental feeding most certainly can have an affect on carrying capacity. I know some guys run gravity feeders with protein cubes in them year round probably a good idea I just haven’t gotten around to fooling with it myself.
Unfortunately, our county does not allow supplemental feeding. I'm sure we will if and when we are ever permitted to again.
 

Derek Reese 29

5 year old buck +
I am in PA currently, and on the 3 mile loop around our farm it is not uncommon to see 100-150 deer. There have been times when we only see 3-4 bucks, but usually the ratio is around 10 or 15 to 1...still way too high and we shoot several does a year and last year only killed 1 buck on 200 acres. It hurts that the neighboring 500+ acres do not shoot doe. Their fields can have 40-50 deer in them, with some doe pushing 5-6 years old. I understand that we don't have enough land for quality management and we have a deer control area right next to us, so we get to see both sides of the coin.
 

BenAllgood

5 year old buck +
I look and see what deer are browsing on. If they are browsing heavily on plants that aren't really preferred in that area, then there are too many deer. If I have a good bit of "ice cream" plants available with little browse pressure, the property can stand a few more mouths. Of course, increasing the amount of browse can increase the carrying capacity. You can have very few deer on a property, but still have too many if you get my point.
 

Bassattackr

5 year old buck +
I don’t get caught up in ratios. Extensive reading on the subject matter willl show some to claim 1:1 is best, others as far out as 6:1. You can’t control sexes in nature, at least for any extended period of time.

What you can control is numbers. When I have too many deer, I take does. When I have too few, I generally don’t take any does. I hunt for mature bucks regardless of the doe situation.

IMO - The best way to assess is from a browse pressure standpoint. Game camera photos do help confirm what you see when hunting. I try and “outplant” my local herd until my food gets completely decimated into the winter months. If my food is being eaten into the dirt, I expand and plant more. If I’ve maximized my planting area, and food and browse is still over capacity, time to start shooting does.
 

homerj1

5 year old buck +
A healthier herd. If we can increase the amount of food and then correct for what tends to happen over time - a proportional increase in does, we will have a larger impact on the overall herd. If we can do that, than we stand a better chance at seeing more mature bucks.
It's been my experience that when you add quality food, you increase the overall number of deer. Food brings does. Does drop fawns. You certainly may increase your impact on the herd as long as you're prepared to whack more does every year. I'm not sure about seeing more mature bucks. Maybe, maybe not.
 

SwampCat

5 year old buck +
Before you decide what you want in the way of a buck:doe ratio - you need to know what your fawn recruitment numbers are. As far a managing deer numbers, my fawn recruitment is about as important as anything to me. I got my buck:doe ratio down to 1:1 and ran out of deer because that lower doe denstity could not produce enough fawns - at the fawning rate in my area - to equal of exceed all mortality.
 

PrairieShadow

5 year old buck +
Great topic. Great Insights. Winter is our limiting factor here and varies year to year. We could 10x our current numbers and carry them the other months of the year just fine. A winter hits with extended extreme cold and we can lose %50 of our herd in a month or so. It's a very sobering sight to walk those shelterbelts come spring time.
 

Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
In my deer hunting unit, we have the 3rd highest deer density in the state at 57 dpsm. On our property, as we have about 250 acres of extremely tight, difficult to access cover & sanctuary, our density numbers are significantly higher. I have sat out on early december muzzleloader hunts and have had 40-45 at one time feeding around me. Probably 80-90% were does.
 

TreeDaddy

5 year old buck +
Before you decide what you want in the way of a buck:doe ratio - you need to know what your fawn recruitment numbers are. As far a managing deer numbers, my fawn recruitment is about as important as anything to me. I got my buck:doe ratio down to 1:1 and ran out of deer because that lower doe denstity could not produce enough fawns - at the fawning rate in my area - to equal of exceed all mortality.

What is your goal or ideal fawn recruitment number, percentage?

I read 70%in some publications

bill
 
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