Since deer season has come to a close, it’s time to use a bit of that 20/20 hindsight. If you’re anything like me, the hunting season went too quickly and the trips you wanted to take and the projects you wanted to tackle may just have not be completed. However, we must continue on and now is a great time to look back on the hunting season and assess your accomplishments and shortcomings of your management activities. The detailed harvest data that you collected over the year will help you to assess your progress in relation to your goals for harvest for the year. Compiling the average age, field dressed weights, and gross score will give you a good idea of the quality of deer that you are harvesting on the property as well as where improvements are necessary.
Taking a look at your harvest results for the year, the body weights of harvested animals can give you an idea on the health of the herd when compared against the results of other programs in the area. This information should be available through your local biologist. If your body weights are drastically lower than other properties in your area, overpopulation may be a problem or you may need to provide supplemental nutrition with a Tecomate food plot. Your local biologist may also have data on antler size which you can use to compare your data to. Remember that if you are working to cull out lower end animals, your average antler sizes will be lower than others in the area. However, it’s worth the years of hard work and giving up on those temptations to take that great buck you’ve been watching. A good bit to remember is, even if you think your neighbor might shoot him, if you shoot him, you guarantee that he’ll definitely never pass on those genes again!
A post-season camera survey with your Reconyx game cameras will be an additional leg to your assessment. If you are flying post-season helicopter surveys, remember that you will see a higher percentage of the deer in post season surveys versus the fall surveys because most trees have defoliated. The impact of sight ability can have astounding effects on survey results. While each year’s data is important, hastily using a single year’s results to make drastic changes in your management direction will likely leave you a fool. I have seen closed properties count more deer in the post-season survey after removing incredible numbers of deer.
Use your data over several years to watch the trends of your harvest and obtain a true representation of your activities. Swings in data can be caused by drought, animal activity, hunter effort, etc., and should be discounted as anomalies which should be noted but not acted upon in any great capacity. If your hunting club didn’t maintain detailed records about hunting efforts and the details of harvest, you’ll likely be left scratching your head about how things really turned out this year. Take the time now, while the season is fresh on your mind to create data sheets for next year to facilitate collecting data while you celebrate the successful harvest of an animal.
Posted by Cody Zabransky