Impact of Hunting Pressure on Adult Male White-tailed Deer Behavior

Hunting pressure can lead to drastic changes in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) behavior, though previous studies have focused mainly on females and juvenile males. Adult male white-tailed deer have not been studied in the context of hunting pressure since the advent of GPS technology. During 2006-2007, we deployed GPS collars on nine adult (≥2.5 years old) male white-tailed deer to examine changes in home range (95% fixed kernel) and core area (50% fixed kernel) size, shifts in home range and core area, movement, activity, and vulnerability to harvest during Maryland's two-week firearms season at Chesapeake Farms. Home range and core area size did not change between pre-hunt and hunt periods, and although adult male white-tailed deer movement and activity decreased from pre-hunt to the hunt period, this was at least partially attributable to hunting season coinciding with the post-breeding period. Our results suggested that hunting pressure levels at Chesapeake Farms did not influence deer behavior to a point of decreasing harvest vulnerability. Limiting hunting pressure on a property may be an effective way to mitigate loss of harvest opportunities due to avoidance by white-tailed deer of hunted areas.

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