First Day at Jefferson Elementary
Now is the time of year to observe, hunt or watch out for deer (motorists need to be vigilant), as the peak of both breeding season and hunting season approaches.
White-tailed deer were once nearly eliminated in Georgia by poachers and extensive agriculture, but through exhaustive restocking and wildlife management efforts, deer have been successfully restored to all of their former native ranges throughout Georgia. In fact, the population peaked at 1.4 million in 1997 and currently stands at nearly one million animals.
Deer are a valuable natural, recreational, and economic resource in Georgia, bringing in more than $900 million per year in hunting license fees, sporting equipment sales, hunting trip expenses and land leases. However, high deer densities in some localized areas have the potential to inflict significant damage to forestry, agricultural or horticultural crops, home gardens, ornamental shrubbery and their own woodland food supplies. But because deer are important both biologically and economically, management of their numbers requires serious consideration on multiple levels. Regulated hunting is the only effective way to control and manage deer populations. Coyotes are also becoming important predators on young deer fawns, killing as many as 25-50 percent of newborn deer fawns every year.
Scientific studies of white-tailed deer, funded by sportsmen in the form of taxes on arms and ammunition over the past 70-plus years, have provided much information on deer biology and behavior. For example, adult deer in Georgia weigh from 70 to 250 pounds with bucks typically weighing more than does. Breeding season (called “the rut”) extends from October to January and peaks in November. Deer ranges expand and movements increase greatly during the rut. This is good news for hunters but bad news for motorists.
Although most hunters think in terms of bucks, it is management of the doe segment of the herd that determines most all of the differences in deer population size. For example, depending on the food supply and the total deer population, does can produce twins, singles, or not bear any fawns at all. If births exceed the total death rate from hunting and other causes in any particular year, then the population increases. Eventually, the population reaches a size where it exceeds the available food supply of the land resulting in lower birth rates, poor antler development, lower body weights and eventually a lower population as the remaining food supply is permanently damaged. Consequently, deer herds are the result of a complex interaction of hunting pressure, food supply, population size, births, deaths, movements, weather, and past history.
November is a magical month for hunters because bucks are moving more than any other time of year. They are also chasing does, making scrapes and rubbing trees with their antlers to mark their territories. Their “sign” in the woods, keeps hunters encouraged and helps them stay in the hunt even in cold and inclement weather. Most hunters will have a great hunt this month.
Kent Kammermeyer is a certified wildlife biologist. His column appears monthly.