Hunter Distribution and Harvest Rate of Female White-tailed Deer in PA
Changes in license allocation or season length are usually assumed to influence deer population dynamics through changes in harvest rates. However, deer management units with a spatially variable harvest rate may have refugia (areas with little or no deer harvest), which could mediate and possibly negate the effects of changes in antlerless allocations or season length. To our knowledge, only one study (conducted in Minnesota) has examined the distribution of deer hunters and deer hunting mortality. A spatial model of the distribution of deer hunters and deer harvest in Pennsylvania could provide valuable information to natural resource managers and hunters alike.
The first objective of this study was to estimate annual survival and harvest rates of female white-tailed deer on both study areas and to evaluate whether hunting mortality rates varied spatially across each study area. The second objective was to model the spatial distribution of hunters across the landscape. The third objective was to use GPS collars to obtain intense location information (every hour) to monitor the movements of deer in response to hunter activities during the rifle deer hunting season. Two study areas were selected that contained large tracts of public land primarily forested and managed by the Bureau of Forestry, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and enrolled in the PGC’s Deer Management Assistance Program.