Fawn Survival Evidence

Well put! My view is our Virginia department probably recognizes its coming irrelevance for anything other than setting the number of days we can shoot either sex and where. I don't know. Maybe that's enough. Or, admittedly, I might be totally wrong. I don't have the science!

My fear about the move to buying recreational land for hunting purposes (nearly achieved here in Virginia) is the loss of hunters voices in the conversation, whatever impact it may have. Does hunting (or has it already) become an elitist sport where only a select few get to participate? I guess I'm OK with it, but I'm not sure I understand the impacts.

Hunting license sales are dropping nationwide - for a variety of reasons - including lack of hunting land access that is not too far or too expensive. I think there are a lot of other reasons, also.
Well put! My view is our Virginia department probably recognizes its coming irrelevance for anything other than setting the number of days we can shoot either sex and where. I don't know. Maybe that's enough. Or, admittedly, I might be totally wrong. I don't have the science!

My fear about the move to buying recreational land for hunting purposes (nearly achieved here in Virginia) is the loss of hunters voices in the conversation, whatever impact it may have. Does hunting (or has it already) become an elitist sport where only a select few get to participate? I guess I'm OK with it, but I'm not sure I understand the impacts.
I would say the average sportsmen buying land in PA are middleclass, not elitist. In today's economy, somebody that pays attention in school, work's hard and saves their money, or pools their money with others, can own their own hunting land long before retirement age, and their children and grandchildren benefit from it as well. Pennsylvania also has a very strong tradition of the entire clan going to the cabin for the weekend (as do many other states as well) that probably drives the real estate acquisitions as much as hunting opportunities. If someone makes hunting on their own property their top priority in life, and they don't mind working for it, it is an achievable dream for most here in PA. I don't see any negative impact from this trend yet.
P.S. While most hunting land ownership is solidly mainstream middleclass here, there are always the whiners who say they can't afford to buy land, the same people who beg to go hunting in your heated blind over your lush food plot on the first day of gun season but never have the time to help work, and who spend the rest of the year blowing their money on discretionary items they don't really need.
Ramdom thots...
Birds lay group of eggs. Survival is usually less than 50%. That includes large predator birds. Bears produce 1-4 cubs every 2 years at best. Survival rate 40% on average depending on size of litter. Fox litters lose 20% of their young before they even come out of the burrow. Can go on, but you get my gist. Why do we expect a whitetail to have her 1-3 fawns survive past the first year?? We are naive enough to think they only should/can die by choice of the hunter. Maybe the landscape knows the true holding capacity of deer and our efforts only force that population into l Unrealistic expectations.
I can/have hunted my counties where it was 60+dspm. I still hunt national forest lands that are probably 20-30 dspm and counties where there are not even a rifle season where its 10-15 dspm. Where were the most enjoyable hunts for me? The lower number counties by far. I don't care if my child, or grandchild sees deer everytime we hunt. I don't care if it takes him years to kill their first. Hunting is much more than the harvest. My son took his first buck stalking with bow at 13 after tagging along with me for many a year.
Hunters will not be the game population controllers of the future. My state has probably one of the highest per capita hunting populations in the lower 48. And even here, the interest is waning. Sure they will go for some days, but to hunt hard and long thru the season like some of us, well that is a dying breed. And need for venison is just not there. My buddy and I always easily took 20+ deer/yr. Now I don't need much game meat, and most people wont even bother to take it unless you do all the work for them. They would rather pay top dollar of so called healthy organic stuff. Animal Populations will be controlled by other methods including the predator. And to me the predator is less evil than a chemical birth control or government snipers which is on the horizon and already present in many locales.
We brought it on ourselves, with the love of QDM for the horns by many of us and its promotion by many hunting groups and publications. . The days of group interaction is long gone. The companionship of the hunt is now limited to family or just a few friends because we don't want to disturb our precious trophy buck we have fed with our land management. In my mind we have created the demon ourselves, my self included,and then choose to blame a multitude of agencies and groups for the demise.
Finally, I'm lucky to live in a state with decent DNR group that is not much connected to political pressure. They may cater to do the dollar sales of licsence but not too much a deal. In addtion we have millions of acres of state and national lands available. I don't mean to sound pessimistic, because I am not, but I do change is here and we will do little about maintaining what we have known in the past.
Everywhere is different and everyone is different. Where I live, we arent so naive to believe any doe is going to raise 1-3 fawns. Our adult does average carrying 1.7 fetuses. Our average fawn:doe ratio is .5 fawns per doe just prior to season opening. So we anticipate the majority of fawns perishing before season ever opens. We probably have 20 dpsm. If you have a 1:1 buck doe ratio like we do - on a square mile you would have roughly eight bucks, eight does, and four fawns. That means ALL mortality can amount to four deer per year and maintain the population. 10% die to natural mortality - autos, disease, predation, etc. That leaves two that may be taken by hunters - off of 640 acres. If you own 300 acres like I do - that allows me to take one deer per year as my share. $750,000 for 300 acres, thousands of dollars worth of equipment and hundreds hours of effort - and my fair share is one deer per year. No, I am not satisfied with that. No, I am not OK with predators taking many more than I do. I live on this ground year round, too. I also like deer meat. I like to see deer, and I am not going to lie - I enjoy killing a deer or two every year, tracking, the comraderie around the skinning pole, processing, making sausage, cooking the meat and eating it. I would rather see multiple deer of every size throughout the season and take my chances on seeing a big one as to see one 150” deer during the year and nothing else. A few years ago, during the first month of bow season I hunted at least parts of 28 days and did not see a deer - of any kind. I didnt like it. My wife and I have each spent thirty or forty days hunting in one season and not seen twenty deer - let alone killed them. Again, I will be honest - I didnt like it - not one bit. I have hunted where the deer population was probably twice as high as what it is now. I didnt kill many more deer - but I saw a lot more - and I liked it a lot.

So, yes - I would like fawn survival to be higher, and I would like antlerless harvest to be more restricted - it would make it much easier to achieve my goals. But that is not how it is - so I do what I can to achieve my goals - and that includes having conversation with biologists and commissioners.
I agree with you Swamp. And that is pretty much my point. Our frustrations of what we want with our herd are polar opposites in some ways. I want less, you want more numbers. But I did crap my pants at your dollar numbers. LOL. And I really do think hunting will lose out simply form lack of desire in many directions of future generations.
But lets let that go. Serious question for all, and no direction toward any comments on this thread but back to its original intent.
Why in a state such as mine, 85% forested, only pockets of true ag land, most crops only of corn or a alfalfa/hay, large hunting community that will shoot most anything, plenty of poachers, more predators than most on this forum, road kill the highest in the nation, poor soils for the most part, very liberal limits and long seasons on all game and predators, rural community that has no problem taking a deer for the freezer any time of the year, plenty of quality public land to hunt, and heavy out of state influx of hunters each year,.....Why do we still see an explosion of deer population in nearly all areas of the state with some few exceptions?? We've had heavy seasons of 6-9 deer/yr for over 20 years. Typically doe season limits are 3-4 does concurrent with all seasons. And except for a required buck in a couple seasons, all the other deer can be doe if one chooses.
And all this just a few decades past years when you were lucky to see a few deer the entire season.
Answer this and maybe the other answers will fall in place. And no, I don't have the answer but as you would expect, have my opinions.
I wonder about those things a lot. We used to have more deer and antlerless seasons were liberalized and at the same time, fawn recruitment numbers fell. We also now have cwd in the NW part of the state, and seasons in that area were liberalized even more. VA and AR actually have similar harvest numbers when considering acres of deer habitat. The basic differences would actually get down to differences in fawn recruitment numbers or overall mortality - or a combination of both. AR is way behind other southern states when it comes to turkey nesting success and harvest. I dont know what the answer is for the underlying reasons - I know where I live our herd started to decline not too many years after antlerless harvest was liberalized. So why did that result in a decline in the deer herd here - and the same thing apparently had no effect there. Maybe there is more unreported harvest here, maybe more flooding, maybe more depredation harvest in AG ground, maybe your overall population is at a level that can support the mortality and our population is not at the point it can support the mortality. There are many questions - but no definitive answers.
We've traveled a lot of ground in the last couple of days. I don't know if I can pull this off tonight or if it needs more time. Let me start with an obvious statement. There are lots of factors that determine a deer population in a given area. I think we've aired all of them. But, if you want to see a major disaster, couple a plan to reduce the herd to more sustainable levels by means of increases in the number of hunting days for either sex with a devastating and unexpected outbreak of disease. Let's use Nottoway County in Virginia. It's one of a few places I hunt and I have something of a long history there. Things were pretty stable in the 1980's and 1990's. By that I mean the kill numbers didn't vary a lot year over year. Just for kicks and giggles and as a point of reference there were 141 does reported killed in the county in 1970. By 1980 it was 454. And it stayed there, plus or minus for the next 15 years. Guess what? We were really excited because the herd's growing. We see more deer every year! The managers take notice and expanded the number of days we can shoot does. As hunters we were lovin' it! In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 we're killing over a thousand antlerless deer a year. Now when you kill anterless deer you're killing the future adult population of both does and bucks! In 2014, even with a still expanded doe season we kill only half what we had in the previous five years. Just like that. Bang. Where did all the deer go? We killed a pile of them AND that year, 2014 we had a hugh outbreak of hemorrhagic fever. Most of the county just quit hunting in the middle of December. We're still trying to recover. I've got some great charts some of which I cannot find right now.

The blue bars represent the buck kill year after year. It's got some wave to it, but not like the anterless kills represented by the orange bars. Somewhere I have an up-to-date version. The last two years haven't been a whole lot better. Heck, we're back into the 1980s!


A lot of people will swear it's coyotes - and they don't help anything, but I believe it's disease on top of an overly liberal open season on does. Here's my evidence. Look at the expansion from 2009 to 2014. Then, look at the bar chart above for those years - and the years
after. Without getting into the weeds on population estimates, I think this county, on average, currently has less than 20 dpsm. Its capable of sustaining at least 30 and in the "golden years" I'm sure it probably was approaching 40.


If you want to see more discussion of the Virginia situation, go here:http://www.vahuntingforum.com/showthread.php?tid=11601&page=2
Not being smart so no one take it that way. Fiirst what is the ag/forest ratio in the county X? And what type of ag. Unlike WV, VA has many areas of prime ag from corn to soy to peanuts. I really think it unfair to examine a specific county, it takes a much broader area to really make a determination. I agree, many factors from predator to seasons to disease to available food make an impact on herd numbers.
How do you determine carrying capacity when you say its 20 but 40 is a proper number?
And while I won't disagree completely with liberal seasons, remember some of those downturns, especially what even we saw in16,17 were result of harsh winters and a mast failure in 14,15, and part of 16. Many factors involved. I shot no does for the last 4 years in part for that reason, two were taken by family. And in reality, any population, hunted or not, predator or not, will see pretty much the variation in herd numbers as we see in that chart to some degree. Still no real answer yet to my question tho. And maybe there is not one or we all would be famous.
Some great comments about the need for managing herds on a much smaller scale than county or region. I’ve seen what is possible on large parcels where sophisticated landowners can set specific seasons and are given wide discretion in determining the numbers taken. I believe a similar exercise could work with smaller parcels and the right habitat minded landowners. However, I doubt the government biologist would give up their influence. I’m forced to try to address numbers by simply who I let hunt and what rules I impose. It is imperfect....but the only tool I have. With our winter kill, we may not kill does this year, and at least at present, we’ve gone from 6 mature bucks on the property to one. In consequence, there may be few deer harvested unless my camera surveys are wrong, or significant numbers move in from the neighbors. I’m certain notwithstanding the winterkill on my mountain, the biologists will not cut back doe tags in our unit. All, while NY continues to regulate the taking of coyotes through the imposition of seasons timed to protect the next generation of coyotes.
To be fair, in my area, in addition to increased antlerless harvest, we had drought in 2011 and 2012, and a prolonged flood in 2015 in which there was almost no fawn crop. So it is a variety of reasons. I think there are all kinds of local dynamics that come in to play. But, once you have your property set up like you want and your management plans fully implemented - you have basically two controls on your own ground - you can control what you shoot - and you can reduce your predator population. You cant control floods, or droughts, or mast crop failures, or what your neighbors shoot, cars, disease, etc. You are very limited in the scope of what will noticeably increase your herd - especially on small properties. My opinion is that reducing the herd is much easier done than increasing it. To increase the herd - it is all about doe numbers and fawn recruitment.
It's been fun! Thanks for your solid writing and contributions to the discussion. For me, it's time to go do something else.