State Data Indicates Quality Deer Management Has Big Impact

Arkansas has some outstanding deer hunting thanks to hunters' decisions and wildlife agency managament. This fine buck was killed in 2010 with a crossbow.

Arkansas has some outstanding deer hunting thanks to hunters’ decisions and wildlife agency managament. This fine buck was killed in 2010 with a crossbow.

Does quality deer management work? Depends on what your goals and objectives are within the QDM strategy you employ, whether it’s on a smaller tract or something larger.

Quality deer management doesn’t automatically mean trophy deer management. The latter could be part of the former, but it’s not necessarily the end-all final must-do-this goal of QDM. If you want it to be the goal then you’ll have to set your course toward trophy bucks – whatever those are in your estimation – and work to achieve that.

State wildlife agencies are tasked with attempting to manage deer in gigantic numbers on millions of acres and deal with hunters. Some want no restrictions and some want intensely strict regulations. It’s a heck of a balancing act.

Check out what’s going on in Arkansas with their deer management strategies (via this press release from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission):

Deer numbers in Arkansas have increased significantly, and this is confirmed by the deer checked by successful hunters.

One tool used by wildlife managers is comparison. How does Arkansas compare to other states with its deer? Remember, Arkansas in some other non-hunting categories ranks near the bottom.

Arkansas deer and the hunting of Arkansas deer have undergone noticeable changes in recent years. A leading example is the ratio of bucks versus does. Today, the indications are this ratio is much closer to the ideal 50-50.

Here are some state ranking capsules assembled by the national and well regarded Quality Deer Management Association:

First in the United States with lowest percentage of buck fawns harvested (4 percent).

First in the United States with fewest yearling bucks in harvest for four of the past five years (8 percent).

Second in the United States for highest percentage of adult does in harvest (86 percent).

Most of these high national rankings can be traced to hunters’ believing and accepting the change in direction of Arkansas deer hunting that started in 1998 with the introduction of the 3-point rule for bucks. The rule took out button or nubbin bucks, spike bucks and forkhorn (2-points on one side) as legal targets for hunters, except for youths.

Button bucks are those on which antlers have not grown out of skin. They are sometimes killed by mistake when hunters believe they are shooting does. Button bucks are checked as such and count toward a hunter’s seasonal limit of two bucks.

Deer hunting rules vary considerably by states, but nearly all states report buck-doe ratios out of balance. Arkansas has been in this category but may be getting close to leaving it, according to deer check results of last season.

For the first time in history, more does than bucks were checked by hunters. The difference was small – 107,247 does to 105,952 bucks or 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent. The previous season, 2012-2013, had 103,039 does checked to 110,448 bucks. But in the 1970s and 1980s, the percentages were around 30 percent does, 70 percent bucks.

More liberal regulations on the taking of does has been a factor along with increased seasonal limits. Today, a hunter can take a statewide limit of six deer, of which two can be bucks. But most deer zones have lower limits; hunters have to take deer in more than one zone to reach the limit of six.

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