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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Let's hear your thoughts on the surveyor_scott post
1) What is the ideal buck to doe ratio?
2) How do you get an accurate count of the exist ratio?
3) How do you go about developing a plan that adjust the ratio?
 

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What is the "correct" buck to doe ratio? Good question. Biologically speaking I believe it is about 1 buck for every 1.5 does, but I may have that backwards. This is the way the good Lord designed the species. It insures that bucks don't get overworked and die as a result of too many does, and not enough time to breed them all. It also insures that only mature bucks breed the majority of the time. Further, it insures that the majority of does are bred on time, putting fawning at the optimal time the following spring.

How do you get an "exact" count of the existing ratio? Not sure this is possible. Even wildlife biologists will admit, on free-ranging deer populations, their figures are pure estimates based upon the best data they can gather. On our property, we strive to identify individual bucks, versus tracking does and fawns as individual animals each time we see them. We track the total number of deer encounters had over a season by all hunters. We then take the number of individually identifiable bucks and divide that into the total number of doe and fawn encounters. This past season we had a total of 104 deer encounters. Of them, 15 were individual buck encounters. So dividing 89 does and fawns by 15 bucks, we got a buck to doe ratio of 1:5.93. We used a trail timer attached to a 35mm camera to drop this number down to about 1:3.5 because it is much easier to identify a family group of does and fawns when seen on repeated photos over a period of months. I would recommend everyone use one of these camera units in their attempts to figure out the buck to doe ratio in their area. Oddly enough, the DNR biologist in our area said before the season began that the ratio in our area was about 1:3, and it looks like he was right on.

Adjusting the ratio is simple. Shoot does and pass on bucks. This is the easiest thing in the world to do on paper (or on computer in this case); but probably the hardest thing to do in real life. The state currently limits you to three doe permits statewide, so aggressive harvests by small clubs such as ours are nearly impossible. But we do what we can, and ask the neighbors to do it too. We attempt to take a doe using one of the combination tags during archery. In our area, the bucks are really small-racked, so the chances of harvesting a buck with the combo-restricted tag are slim to none. We use that tag to harvest a doe during the archery season. We also fill the other three permits somewhere throughout the season as opportunities present themselves. Thereby, we have limited ourselves to one buck for every 4 does (maximum annual harvest per hunter). This past season we fell well short of that at 2 doe and one buck. Combining that with this rough winter to-date and I am sure the deer will be starving to death (unless the next 6 weeks or so remain mild).

Sorry so lengthy. Hope this helps.

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"Take a doe so HE can grow"

Todd.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
As we discuss the ideal buck/doe ratio, let's assume it's just prior to the archery season opener, and only includes 2 1/2 and older deer. It's my opinion that MI buck/doe ratios in September can be very misleading from an overall herd health / age structure standpoint.
 

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Never thought that it'd be so complicated to go deer hunting. Just kidding. But I guess I need to learn to be much more observant while hunting.

For instance, I see a doe w/ 2 fawns. The next night I see a doe w/ 2 fawns. I have no idea if they are the same 3 deer or not. That would make a huge difference in calculating an "accurate" buck to doe ratio.

Also, even before I started passing up the small bucks, I didn't pay that close of attention. I'd say, "I saw a 6 point, and a small 8 point". Never noticing any thing unique that would allow me to recognize them again. In fact, since passing up on the small ones, I've become less observant. I come home and say, "I saw 2 small bucks".

How small?

"I don't know...too small to shoot".

4 point? 6 point?

"I don't know...too small to shoot".

Now the buck is either 1) A Shooter or 2)Not A Shooter.

Because the deer are now yarded up, I was thinking that this would be a good time to count deer. Except two things.

1) Some of the bucks have shed that antlers.
2) The button bucks couldn't be distinguished from does.

Because of those two problems, I don't think you'd get an accurate count.

I think the CamTracker would help some. But again, there is still the problem of distinguish one doe w/ 2 fawns, from the next doe w/ 2 fawns. The other draw back that I see with the Camtracker is the cost. I budget myself so much per year for hunting. Given the choose between a new bow, a new gun, new boots, new camo suit, or a CamTracker, the camera is gonna take a backseat. Also, we've had salt blocks stolen, I sure would hate to lose a camera.

I agree that to reduce the buck/doe ratio you must harvest more does than bucks. But without an accurate count to begin with, who is to say that the ratio is skewed at all. Maybe I already live in the perfect fantasy world with a 1.5 buck/doe ratio, and don't know it.

Am I making this more difficult than it really is? Or does everyone have similar problems? I can see that I have a lot to learn about QDM. But the first step, for me, is to be more observant. In the past I've started a log book of my hunts. But usually by the second week of the season, I've stop making entries. Also, when I did do the log I paid more attention to things like: temperature, wind speed, wind direction, stand location, what time the deer came out, what direction they came, what direction they were heading. And not focusing on making many notes on the deer themself, beyond bucks, or does/fawns.

I wish deer season was approaching, instead of just finishing. I have much to learn, but am eager to be the star pupil.

I appreciate all the input that I've received, and look forward to putting it to use.

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Scott
 

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A buck to doe ratio limited to 2 1/2 year old bucks isn't practical where I hunt. There are very few. The ratio would be about 1 buck for every 200+ does.

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"Take a doe so HE can grow"

Todd.
 

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The fact that you wish to be a student with the rest of us is exactly what we need everyone in Michigan to do. Listen, and learn from eachother; then apply what they've cumulatively learned in the field each day of the year.

Your point about not being able to positively identify doe/fawn groups as the same deer day after day, or a different group each day; is exactly why we DON'T attempt to do this. Each deer seen is treated as an individual animal; or better refered to as a 'deer encounter'. We track individual encounters cumulatively, but we pay very keen attention to every buck we see. We really try to remember antler charcateristics, lengths of tines, broken tines, missing antlers, number of points, missing limbs on the animal, coat irregularities, etc... Remember, if you aren't going to shoot them, you have lots of time to watch them move by and mentally record these things.

We have found it imperitave to record each hunt with 2 hours of completing it so as not to forget the little details that really do matter. In fact, we record details of eachothers hunts, for comparisons later. I see some situation completely different than my brother; so when we are trying to determine that we each saw a different 6-point in the same evening hunt; details are key, as well as two records of the same hunt.

We have 14 or 16 rolls of 24-exposure film from our camera that date from August of 2000 through December of 2000. With this many pictures, it becomes relatively easy to distinguish groups of animals. The best place to capture them is at a feeder or baitpile where the camera can be placed within 20' of where you know the deer come in. We have found that irregardless of weather conditions, family groups will approach a feed sight from the same general direction each time they visit. Travel patterns can also be determined using one of these units. Say a group of 3 deer visits the feeder three seperate times through the course of one night. You know they can't be going too far away to return that often. In comparison, you may get one photo every 3rd day of a family group. You know those deer are 'living' a good distance from your feeder, and probably you are on the very edge of the does homerange. How important is a camera on your annual 'gear list'? I say, if you don't have one, it should be priority #1.

As far as getting the units stolen, I wouldn't worry too much. They lock with a padlock to the tree. The case is bear-proof, meaning they could beat the heck out of it, and it'll survive the attack. The locking cable is made of steel that resists cutting, so a hacksaw won't help thieves much either. I'm sure if there is a way for it to get stolen, a thief will find it eventually, but I would bet you'd get a few pictures of him/her trying to do so before it actually took place... making prosecution easy.

The camera unit also will tweak your best guestimate on the ratio a bit as well. As I already stated, our ratio went from an observed ratio of 1:5.93 down to 1:3.3.

I don't see these observations as difficult, but then I use statistics on a daily basis. For someone who isn't used to this kind of information gathering 'overload', I can only imagine the overwhelming feeling you have.

Track what is important to you each year, but remember to be consistent. Each year, we tend to measure the herd a new way, but we don't leave the previous years' measurements just drop; we add the new measurement to the book. This year I began to measure deer sightings per hour on stand. Since it is the first year I've measured this stat. I have no history to know whether this was a good year or a bad one. But, because I kept track of all the other stats from the previous years, I know that the overall sightings this season were up tremendously!

Remember to enjoy the animal and the sport; that is why we are out there afterall. This other stuff just adds to the enjoyment factor for our club.



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"Take a doe so HE can grow"

Todd.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Todd, appreciate your comments. That is why I specifically mentioned 2 1/2+, namely we need to be careful when talking about sex ratios and age structure, which is especially important from a deer social/biological standpoint. Hopefully you'll see gains over the coming years on the 1:200 ratio you mentioned for this age group. And I'm sure you will, as we get more and more hunters to use restraint in harvesting young bucks.

Surveyor_scott quote above "Am I making this more difficult than it really is?" I think we QDM proponents sometimes throw in too much (and I'm as guilty as anyone) for people first showing an interest in QDM. It really can be summarized with just a few key elements, including: adequate harvest of female deer, restraint in harvesting young bucks, maintaining and/or improving habitat, high ethical standards and appreciation of wildlife.

And regarding buck/doe ratios, over time if we have a balanced harvest of bucks and does, things will improve (certainly not rocket science).

Scott, I'm sure you will continue to expand your interest with deer management, while having fun - can never overemphasize the importance of keeping the fun in it. One last note: cameras are not a necessity (please don't take the statement as negative). Ed Spinazzola, who really is responsible for getting QDM jump-started in Michigan, has a couple of night cameras which he no longer uses. He merely spends a lot of time in the woods year around observing and videotaping deer.



[This message has been edited by bwiltse (edited 01-18-2001).]
 

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My honest opinion:

Whenever the topic of the ratio of does to bucks is discussed, we usually see ratios all over the field; 2 to 1, 3 to 1, 10 to 1, 200 to 1, etc. The important thing to recognize in this area is the need to define what the ratio is based upon. Is it a ratio of adult does to adult bucks? What is an adult deer? Is it a ratio of total males to total females? And, of critical importance, at what point in time in the calendar is the ratio measured - pre-harvest (say, 10/1) or post-harvest (1/1).

I believe there are only two reasonable approaches for measuring a doe to buck ratio. In illustrating these methods, I am excluding fawns from the discussion.

If you were to measure the ratio on a pre-harvest basis, it would be appropriate to only count those deer which are 2.5 years old or older. In most of Michigan, this would exclude between 75% and 85% of the antlered bucks (those being 1.5 years old) from the ratio. In a healthy, balanced deer herd, 1.5 year old bucks simply do not participate in the breeding process, hence, their presence within the herd is somewhat irrelevant as it relates to a doe:buck ratio.
Also, in Michigan, the vast majority of the pre-harvest buck population consists of 1.5 year old bucks, which have extreme short-term mortality, and to count them the same weight as older bucks overstates their behavioral impact on the overall herd.

If a doe:buck ratio is to be stated on a post-harvest (as of January 1) basis, I believe it would then be appropriate to count both 1.5 year bucks and does within the ratio. Obviously, the majority of 1.5 year old bucks have expired by this time, and those remaining are the "survivors" who will be adult deer next year.

The most irrelevant measurement of the doe to buck ratio would be to count every single antlered deer to all does 1.5 years old and older on a pre-harvest basis. Given the harvest dynamics at play, particularly in Michigan, such a ratio would absurdly inflate the proportion of bucks in the ratio. Occasionally, deer management officials will state that our herd has a doe to buck ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. Based on my observations, the only way they could ever come to this conclusion would be by counting all antlered deer, pre-harvest, vs. does. I believe this sort of measurement is somewhat dishonest and unrealistically inflates the proportion of bucks in the herd.

On land with which I am familiar in southern lower Michigan, I believe the real doe to buck ratio, measured on a post-harvest basis, is no better than 5:1, and I wouldn't doubt that it's closer to 10:1 in some areas. I defy anyone to spend several days afield in late December in my neck of the woods and conclude that there is any more than one buck around to every five does; indeed, my own December sightings would indicate a ratio somewhat worse than that.

[This message has been edited by farmlegend (edited 01-18-2001).]
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Farmlegend
Occasionally, deer management officials will state that our herd has a doe to buck ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. Based on my observations, the only way they could ever come to this conclusion would be by counting all antlered deer, pre-harvest, vs. does.
Farmlegend, you're correct and I've verified this in the past with MDNR biologists. Your post has several good points, and I would encourage readers to again read the post and don't hesitate to ask questions of themself and others, especially as to the benefits of having mature bucks (2 1/2 and older) do the majority of the breeding.



[This message has been edited by bwiltse (edited 01-19-2001).]
 

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Well, maybe things will be better next year after all. I saw 3 bucks today. One was a spike, one an 8 point with about a 16 inch spread, the third only had a half rack. But he looked to be bigger than the 8 point. Lets keep our fingers crossed.
 

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Boyd,

There have been some good comments made here, but I tend to disagree with the comments about adult sex ratios. I know you and hopefully the others have a great deal of respect for Brian Murphy as a biologist and even more so as Ex. Dir. of QDMA.

I ask that you all go back and read his article Deer Data Collection -Part II:Observation Data which can be found on page 10 of Vol 7, Issue 3 of [Quality Whitetails[/i]. Under the heading of "Sex Ratios he states "The adult sex ratio is the ratio of adult does (1.5+ years old) to adult bucks (1.5+ years old) in the herd."

I fail to understand why you would want to only count the bucks 2.5 + yrs old. It is my understanding that in herds where there is an out of balance ratio, these 1.5 yr olds do participate in the breeding. I think using only 2.5 skews the ratio and makes achieving it even more elusive.

Besides as you get your ratios closer and improve the age structure some (and maybe most) of the 2.5's will not be participating in that much of the breeding. Besides this, as they get older, the bucks become more nocturnal or elusive and still want show up in you observations.

This is just my opinion but I had to add my 2c's worth.

This year alone, I am reasonably sure that me and my high school buddy saw 20 different bucks and only 4 of them 2.5 or older. I will have to do my final tally on the doe sightings to see what it indicated. Since implementing a QDM program here, my annual adult (1.5+ yrs) buck sightings have increase every year, but even then the % 2.5 or greater has remained rather constant. I hope this makes some sense. As the one poster said, there is so much to learn and the more I learn the less I think I know about deer management.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Laturkeyhtr, sorry for any confusion but all I was trying to do with the 2 1/2 plus was to get a feel for age structure, which is related and an indicator of overall herd health, especially from a deer social standpoint, which we oftentimes dismiss as unimportant (John Ozoga, retired MDNR biologist and a lifetime QDMA member, has some great research articles on deer social structure and hierarchy). In MI the 1 1/2 year old bucks do the majority of the breeding (leaving them more physically vulnerable down the road) due to skewed sex ratios along with a poor age structure. I'm unable to make an assessment of sex ratios without knowing the criteria/timing. And depending on who's quoting the ratio, DNR, neighbor, etc. the answer will probably be different.
The MDNR generally defines adult deer as 1 1/2 years and older. And when they mention sex ratios, generally they're talking about adult deer (which includes the teenagers) just prior to hunting season, which can be very misleading, especially depending on the mix of mature (2 1/2 and older) deer at this time of the year. This is what I think farmlegend was alluding to.

Laturkeyhtr, I think you will find that Brian M. and most others when counting adult deer, as defined above, believe that April is a much better time to use when quoting adult sex ratios, than the beginning of the hunting season. I can't speak for your area but in MI the buck harvest has always been greater than the doe harvest, thus the historically poor sex ratios and age structure. (And don't get me wrong, I think that limiting the doe harvest when the deer numbers were low and the herd was being developed, made good sense.) I for now, will settle for an adult buck/doe ratio of 1:2 as of April. And we definitely have a ways to go to get there.

So for purposes of continued discussion and less confusion, let's try to determine what a reasonable goal might be for the ratio of adult deer (1 1/2 and older) after all hunting seasons have ended (January 1). Who knows maybe someday we'll get close to that more natural buck/doe natural ratio of 1 to 1.2 or 1.3.
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Boyd

PS - I apologize for the lengthy post but many times buck/doe ratios can be very misleading or misunderstood depending on the time of the year, and what's being included; and there's no universal criteria used by hunters, etc. that I know of (many times three different people will give you three different ways).

 
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