In the September 2000 issue of Ag News and Views, I wrote an article about doe harvest titled "Killing the Factory." Even though many of you are long-time recipients of this newsletter, you may not recall that article, and quite a few of you are new readers. Therefore, I thought I would use this space for an update, again using some of the Walnut Bayou Deer Management Association (WBDMA) data, but with a different twist. Rather than using hunter effort, I will provide doe population estimates and harvest numbers.
The WBDMA, located in southern Love County, Oklahoma, includes 10 landowners, sharing a common resource (deer) on 12,600 acres with similar deer population management goals. Since the formation of the WBDMA in 1996, the results have been very rewarding and only have been achieved by collaborative effort among landowners. It is a great example of how landowners with small acreages can join together and achieve otherwise unattainable deer management goals. It is also an example of how relatively intense doe harvest does not "kill the factory."
Since 1998 (although the WBDMA was formed in 1996, we last added significant acreage in 1998), an average of 58 does (one per 217 acres) has been harvested each year on the WBDMA. During the same time, an average of 225 does was harvested and legally checked in by hunters in Love County. To put these numbers in perspective, an average of 26 percent of the total does harvested in Love County was taken on WBDMA property, which comprises about 4 percent of the total land area in the county. By Love County standards, that is intense doe harvest. So, what's happening to our total estimated number of deer (bucks, does and fawns) on the WBDMA? It has averaged about 768 deer, or about 16 deer per square mile, with a low of 625 in 2004 and a high of 887 this year. Granted, these numbers are based on spotlight surveys and are only rough estimates, but the point is we still have deer despite a relatively intense doe harvest effort.
In fact, you can see in Figure 1 that from 1998 to 2006, doe numbers appear to be remaining fairly stable. Again, these numbers are obtained from spotlight surveys each fall and are only rough estimates. However, the trend seems stable. Another way we are attempting to evaluate the doe harvest effort on the WBDMA is to look at the percentage of yearling (1.5-year-old) does in the total doe harvest (Figure 2). Theoretically, as doe harvest increases, the percentage of yearling does killed will increase, similar to a young buck age structure in a deer population where bucks are over-exploited. Since 1998, the percentage of yearling does in the total WBDMA doe harvest seems to be somewhat stable. Thus, we conclude doe harvest at this level definitely does not "kill the factory."