The question of how many deer to harvest and in what proportion is asked in developing all deer management plans, but seldom is answered in an objective manner. Ideally, a deer manager would know exactly how many deer of the proper age and sex should be present to best meet the management goals for a particular ranch or tract of land.
With accurate information on herd size, the buck to doe ratio and fawn survival, and with considerations for rainfall, habitat conditions, and hunting on neighboring property, the manager could then prescribe the percentage of the herd that should be harvested to optimize management objectives. Situations such as this where all pertinent information is availalbe are, of course, very rare in deer management.
Despite the fact that managers seldom have all the information they need to make the “perfect” management decision, the decision must be made with the information available. Good deer managers should base decisions concerning how many deer or what percentage of the herd to harvest on fall deer survey estimates, data from previously harvested deer (weights, ages, and antler measurements), general rules of thumb, and “gut feelings” about the particular deer herd.
This provides a brief overview of some of the issues deer managers must deal with regarding deer harvest, but in upcoming articles, I will attempt to build you a foundation in the general guidelines concerning the question of what percentage of the deer herd should be harvested.