Deer Surveys and Harvest Strategy

Deer in the morning

Long-term planning is feasible in deer management, but different years can call for slight to moderate changes in annual harvests based on habitat conditions, fawn survival, and estimated population numbers. Without conducting a deer population survey to get a good estimate of your overall deer numbers and density, you are literally shooting into the wind. Although deer surveys are simply "good estimates" when properly performed, they will keep you on the right track with regards to your long-term management.  

Let's take a look at how annual changes in fawn survival can impact your annual harvests. For example, let’s assume you have a long-term goal of 100 deer on your property, the property is at carrying capacity (100 deer), and you have a 1:1 buck to doe ratio. If your late summer/early fall fawn crop is estimated at 50% (25 fawns from 50 does) then you need to remove 25 deer this fall.

However, if you have an 80% fawn crop next year, that is a total of 40 animals you have to remove from the deer herd to keep the population at carrying capacity. Although your long-term population goal stays the same, your annual harvests will fluctuate to some extent. This is an adaptive harvest strategy allows you to keep number in line with carrying capacity and stay on track. As you can see, getting annual estimates of the deer population as a whole, and particularly fawn survival, is important for the proper management of your deer herd.

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