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Do Deer Stand a Chance on Public Lands?

Posted: February 10, 2015

For deer living on public land, their days are numbered, right? Is surviving the hunting season on public land impossible for deer?

There is a way to answer these questions. Through research! By capturing deer in the winter, placing radio-collars on them and tracking their movements and survival throughout the year or years to come, we can find out who and how many are slipping through the season unharvested (and maybe even undetected) by hunters.

So, what are the harvest rates of deer in Pennsylvania? From our field studies and population monitoring, statewide, about 40% of all antlered deer are harvested, and less than 20% of antlerless deer are harvested.

But that is statewide, what happened during the 2014-15 season on our public land study areas?

At the start of the 2014 rifle seasons, we were tracking 32 deer with GPS collars. These deer were located on state forest lands where along with the regular antlerless allocation hundreds of DMAP permits had been purchased by hunters.

So who lived to see the other side of the season?

When the sun set on the last day, 31 of these deer were still alive. One deer died of a gunshot, but was not recovered.

It is often thought that deer on public lands, especially lands with DMAP permits, don't stand a chance. As much as it may be expected for harvest rates to be high on these lands, field data have yet to corroborate this view. In fact, after 2 years into this study, harvest rates are among the lowest we have observed in the last 15 years of field studies.

Deer possess a remarkable ability to adapt to humans. Whether they are roaming the wilds of Penn’s woods or the urban jungle Pittsburgh or Philly, white-tailed deer are masters in the art of survival and the avoidance of their biggest predator, people.

-Chris Rosenberry, Supervisor
PGC Deer and Elk Section

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