Effects of Various Approaches to Quality Deer Management on White-tailed Deer Harvest

Quality deer management (QDM) is increasingly promoted and practiced throughout the range of white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus. However, published data evaluating the effects of this management strategy are few. We compared harvest characteristics of one private property (Ames Plantation) and three Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in Tennessee before and after implementation of selective harvest restrictions and recommendations to determine effects on buck harvest rates as well as harvest age structure and sex ratio. Annual buck harvest following selective restrictions decreased on the WMAs, but was not different at Ames Plantation. Mature buck (>3.5 years) harvest increased at Ames Plantation and Catoosa WMA, but did not change at Oak Ridge or Yuchi WMAs. Annual doe and buck fawn harvests did not change at any area, but the percentage of does in the harvest increased at Ames Plantation and Oak Ridge WMA. Percentage of buck fawns in the antlerless harvest was similar before and after implementation of selective harvest restrictions and recommendations and exceeded 10% for all areas. We recommend wildlife managers implementing QDM use an age restriction in conjunction with an antler restriction (based on characteristics by age class in a particular area) to ensure adequate protection of young (<2.5 years old) bucks. This will ensure hunters are not penalized when a buck reaches harvestable age, even if antler size does not exceed the minimum antler restriction. Educational efforts to help hunters estimate the age of live deer and identify buck fawns are needed wherever QDM is practiced.

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