10 Years of Deer Management on White River National Wildlife Refuge

When the 113.000 acre White Rive National Wildlife Refuge was established on September 5, 1935, very few white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were present. With protection, the deer herd increased and by 1947 deer were firmly established. By 1957, the bottomland area was overstocked and browsing and desirable forest reproduction was heavy. Overpopulation continued until public hunts began in 1961. Due to obvious overpopulation, the number of hunters were unrestricted from 1961 through 1964. Beginning in 1965, controlled hunting was initiated to achieve deer herd management on a sustained yield basis. The purpose of this study was to determine age and sex composition of the deer herd, proper number of hunters needed to harvest the annual increment and what affects either sex hunting had on reproduction and deer weights. From 1961 through 1970 hunters removed a total of 16,709 deer. Hunting privileges have been granted to 69,770 individuals and approximately 125.000 hunter use days were estimated. Hunter success, excluding the bucks only hunt of 1964, varied from 43% in 1961 to a low of 15% in 1967. Hunter success based on number of individuals participating averaged 22% One hunter per 15 acres appears to be the concentration needed to harvest one deer per 75 acres of hunting area. This concentration of hunters yielded an abstract annual harvest of 35% of the deer population. White River National Refuge was established in 1935 primarily for the benefit of migrating and wintering waterfowl. Very few deer existed on the refuge at that time. With protection, the deer herd increased and by 1947 deer were established throughout the refuge and had begun to spread onto private lands. By 1957, the population had increased to alarming number. A program of managed public hunting coupled with an intensive timber management plan was initiated to bring the deer population and its habitat into balance. This report documents the success of the first 10 years of this program. It is hoped that some of the results reported here can be applied to other deer herds throughout the southeast. We gratefully thank the people who helped collect the data over the years. The late Sumner A. Dow was especially instrumental in initiating the data collections. Employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and students from Arkansas Polytechnic College manned the check stations and did the bloody work. Also, we especially thank Robert L. Downing for the reconstruction work and for reviewing the manuscript.

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