The deer management techniques that we use on our property have changed a lot over the past thirty years in relation with the changing deer herd. Whitetail deer numbers in the entire state of West Virginia have grown considerably and our land has been no exception.
We started shooting does in 1997 after the pictures from our scouting camera revealed that we were overloaded with does. Since then we have shot 22 does and only 7 bucks. Three of these bucks, two 8-points and one 10-point are the three largest antlered bucks that we have taken in the last thirty years. We had noticed that there were larger antlered bucks when the deer population had just started to climb in the eighties and then antler sizes began to decrease as the deer numbers grew too high and we were shooting the young bucks each year.
All of this made us realize that we needed to lower the deer population by shooting does and letting the young bucks grow up.
We are currently doing several different things in an attempt to have a well-balanced, healthier deer herd on our farm. These include:
Letting young bucks grow up. Whitetail Shed Hunting Tips
Planting food plots to help boost the nutrition.
Keep records on the deer harvested and a log of the bucks seen during hunting season.
Leave an area of sanctuary during the hunting season so that the deer are not pressured.
Provide a limited amount of shelled corn with automated wildlife feeders.
On some occasions we also cut down trees to provide browse in the winter and fertilize plants growing along the edges, especially the honeysuckle.
Since changing our hunting strategies we have noticed some changes for the better. We have seen bucks fighting, which we had seldom seen in past years and bucks have started reacting to calling, particularly grunting. We are finding shed antlers now; sheds are hard to find when they're just spikes. Also the numbers of bucks as compared to does caught on our scouting camera pictures has increased dramatically. This tells us that our buck to doe ratio is improving.
On the other hand, we still feel that our total deer numbers are too high. The body weights of the deer we are shooting are still low. The body weights of the three does that we shot in 1997 ranged from 65 to 85 pounds while the weights of the four does in 2003 varied from 55 to 82 pounds. Although we are not deer aging experts we do look at tooth wear to determine the approximate age of the deer. We usually look at the lower front teeth. A couple of the does that we've shot have had these lower front teeth worn all the way to the gumline. Whitetail Shed Hunting Tips