Quality Deer Management at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant: A Unique Approach

Quality management for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is becoming increasingly popular in the southeastern United States, yet surprisingly little information has been published that describes quality or trophy management strategies in detail. The quality deer program at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (McAAP) is unique because it maintains high hunter opportunity while producing high-quality white-tailed deer. Several strategies have been incorporated into the management program to help maintain its unique characteristics. The first is a regulation that limits hunters to traditional archery equipment (recurve or longbow), thereby reducing hunter success and providing bucks with greater opportunity to reach maturity. The second is a centrally located, 4,500-ha refuge that receives little hunting pressure and increases the proportion of mature bucks in the population. Finally, an antlerless harvest system has been implemented that encourages hunters to harvest does by allowing all hunters who harvest a doe to bypass the lottery system the following year. Antler measurements (e.g., basal circumference, number of points, beam length) and weights of harvested bucks and does have increased significantly since the quality management program began in 1989. In addition, the mean age of harvested bucks has gradually increased. These improvements can be attributed to management practices which have served to lower and maintain the population below carrying capacity and the buck:doe ratio above 1:2.5, and to increase the proportion of mature bucks in the population. We describe the McAAP quality management program in detail and discuss the changes in deer herd quality that have occurred since the program began.

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