Declining Deer Numbers? How Hunters Can Help
If you saw fewer deer numbers this hunting season, join the club, declining deer numbers are a fact of the whitetail world, in fact, it is often categorized by some experts as “the new normal”. Coyotes and bears take huge numbers of fawns each spring. EHD, CWD, and TB, take their share as well. And, there is always bad winters and declining habitat to hang the declining numbers blame on. Agencies have all kinds of reasons for why deer numbers are on the decline..
So, what to do? For starters, hunters can help solve the declining deer population issue by gathering data and keeping state agencies informed of what they are seeing in the woods. Hunters need to start showing up at agency meetings armed with good data, not a bucket full of hand grenades. Bone up on how your state manages deer and learn to speak the language. Agencies can help by soliciting input from hunters and making them part of the decision-making process. Agencies need to understand that hunters are perfectly able to understand the science of deer management and have plenty to offer.
Site Specific Management
Deer management needs to be site specific if it is to be effective; hunters are the key to site specific management. How can a state deer biologist know what’s going on the back 40 when he has millions of acres to keep track of? The only expert capable of knowing what a specific area needs as far as deer numbers go are the experts who spend the most time in the woods, and that means hunters and of course, landowners, to leave them out of the data gathering and decision making process is a serious issue in these times of declining deer numbers.
Pulling the Trigger
And one more thing, hunters need to fully embrace the notion that every time they pull (or don’t pull) the trigger they are making a wildlife management decision. This decision will have an impact on future of deer hunting in the area they hunt. All you have to do is be able to do a little simple math and follow a few deer management principles to decide whether pulling the trigger is a good decision or not. State agencies may give you the legal authorization to harvest does but they don’t force you to, especially when you are looking at the last doe standing in the back 40. When it comes to deer management, the guy pulling (or not pulling) the trigger is the final decider.
Yes, deer numbers might be declining in some areas. Depending on where and why it can be a good thing or bad news. But one thing for certain, hunters have a role to play, a role that goes beyond pulling the trigger.