Deer management is a fascinating topic. In fact I’d argue it is the most exciting aspect of hunting outside of hunting mature bucks that are difficult to kill. Managing a deer herd as a resource is a unique experience. Through management practices a hunter becomes a true steward of the resource that God has blessed him with. The process of managing a deer herd entails an understanding of all these topics: food, water, habitat (bedding), population numbers, age structure, and numerous other aspects. By investing in education of these topics a hunter and deer manager can better assist a local deer herd. Time spent improving these aspects of a whitetails habitat helps the hunter to better appreciate the deer and understand both the simple side of deer and the complex nature of deer.
To be an effective manager of a deer herd many consider the important variable to be land. Without enough land it becomes quite difficult to manage deer as a resource. An option for small land-owners is to create co-ops of some sort. Those could be QDMA co-ops or even verbal/written agreements between landowners to deer management principals and guidelines. I’ve taken somewhat of a hybrid approach. Our local area has numerous deer hunters, each of which considers a trophy deer to be something different. Instead of attempting to develop some sort of agreement to the locals I’ve chosen to simply educate all local hunters on the status of our deer herd. By recording harvest numbers and doing trail camera surveys I have a good feel of our local deer herd. It is my hope that by providing information on these numbers I’ll encourage the locals to shoot older bucks and take part in managing our local doe numbers. If this is accomplished then I consider my efforts a success.
Everything discussed thus far is for all intents and purposes the good side of deer management. The bad often boils down to two main issues in my opinion. The first is when management becomes all about antlers and frustration results when the antlers desired aren’t produced. This often robs the hunter of the joy that hunting brings. The second issue is when neighbors refuse to participate and tension is caused. If one party is concerned about management and the other party shoots every deer they see issues can arise. Handling these negative aspects of deer management is simply part of being a deer manager. The issues a deer manager faces are not limited to these two issues, but these are often the primary issues. Any manager should be prepared to deal with these issues.
Bill Winke has taken serious stock in deer management for some time. In a very tactful article Winke discusses the good, the bad, and his new perspective on deer management.