Influence of a Quality Deer Management Program on Hunter Knowledge, Perceptions and Satisfaction

It is well acknowledged that habitat management, herd management, and herd monitoring are necessary to best manage for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). A fourth component that must be considered is hunter participation. Hunter knowledge, perceptions, and satisfaction influence the success of a deer management program, as hunters play a key role in meeting harvest objectives. We surveyed hunters involved in a Quality Deer Management (QDM) program at Ames Plantation in western Tennessee from 2005 - 2013 to determine how experience in a QDM program influenced hunter knowledge, perceptions, and satisfaction concerning deer management. We divided our survey data into two groups to measure program influence: new members (137), who had not hunted or participated in the QDM program at Ames, and experienced members (395), who had at least one year of hunting experience and exposure to annual educational presentations and outreach materials offered through the Ames program. Experi- enced members were 40% more confident in their knowledge of QDM than new members. Both new (97%) and experienced members (99%) believed collecting biological, habitat, observation, and hunter satisfaction data were important for a successful QDM program. Experienced members showed more support (96%) for antlerless deer harvest than new members (91%). Experienced members (84%) were more inclined to think QDM could influence the rut compared to new members (69%). A larger proportion of experienced members thought prescribed burning (84%) as well as timber harvesting (77%) was beneficial for deer habitat, versus new members (74% and 74%, respectively). When asked which factor was most important to QDM success, 71% of experienced members indicated age, whereas new members were split between age (50%), nutrition (24%), and genetics (22%). Our survey results suggest educational presentations and experience hunting in a QDM program can positively influence hunters' perceptions and increase their knowledge of deer and deer management according to QDM guidelines. We recommend state wildlife agencies survey hunters to learn their deficiencies in knowledge of deer biology and management and address areas where increased knowledge and understanding is needed by proactively providing educational opportunities and making themselves more accessible to private clubs such that biologists could conduct annual presentations on deer biology and management.

Publication date
Starting page
Ending page