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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
You've probably all heard...."You can't kill enough does". I strongly believe this statement is both correct, and incorrect.

*This statement is correct in that if you harvest every doe possible, your property will surely be under the carrying capacity, which is great for the health of the herd, and the health of your habitat. You will also most likely experience superior buck to doe ratios as well, and even buck age structure if you are following some type of harvest guidelines.

But,

*This statement is incorrect in that under the enthusiasm and zeal of an early QDM program, or even cooperative, there can be so much focus on antlerless harvest that carrying capacity, accurate census counts, and specific targeted harvest figures are unknowingly brushed asside, leading to an unwanted overharvest of antlerless deer.

Unwarranted antlerless harvest is actually healthy, but it can lead to a dissatisfaction of a QDM plan and greatly deminish landowner and hunter enjoyment, or even QDM resentment. Basically, if a habitat will support 40 deer per square mile, why unknowingly reduce it to 20? At the same time, in a cooperative, not every property will carry the same carrying capacity, and not every property will need to reduce the same number of antlerless deer per acre.

QDM cooperatives have been around long enough in MI, and a greater understanding of QDM is being achieved every day, so it is my opinion that certain "antlerless happy" harvest areas may be reaching their carrying capacity goal, and reducing it much further, without even knowing it! To the hardened QDM supporter, this is mearly a set back, but to neighbors and QDM firstimers, it can be a pretty poor initial experience associated with QDM.

So what can be done?
An accurate census count, for each individual property, as well as potential carrying capacities, need to be assesed. Also, the "big picture" of an entire cooperative needs to be assesed. Look at an entire cooperative as one big hunt club. Try an assess needs and goals for the entire cooperative, as well as each individual property within the cooperative. At the same time, keep weekly tabs and updates of what is taking place in each cooperative, with regards to harvest figures, property deficiances in harvest, as well as body weights, age, and lactation rates. A central barn or shed on someones property can act as a "management station", and communication is key.

Basically, get to know the numbers, set harvest goals, try and reach those goals, and when they are reached....stop. I trully believe that some properties out there have passed so far below their carrying capacities, and although very healthy, they may be pushing the limits of ultimate hunter enjoyment and satisfaction....without even knowing it, at the expense of a true QDM experience.

An accurate census and setting hard harvest objective numbers is the key.
 

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Thanks North Jeff for the good advice. Yes why have less deer when your habitat improvement will allow you to carry more safely. I don't mean 100 deer per square mile. right now according to our DNR's goal they prefer 1.3 million deer and that's about 34 deer per square mile if there is about 38,000 square miles of deer habitat from a total of 58,000 total square miles statwide. We have had about 1.75 milliion deer in our state since the high estimate of 2 million back in 1998. Try as they might the DNR has had little success in getting the hunters to reach that 1.3 miilion goal. 1.75 million deer equals 46 deer per square mile

For some areas that is not exceptionally high and is easily doable with good habitat maiatenance. Landowners and co-ops need to look seriously at their goal and make a judegement as to what deer numbers are correct for their area. If you or your group can sustain a higher deer number safely without negatively impacting your neighbor farmer or habitat. look at the big picture and make good decisions. good nutritious habitat available for deer year round can make a significant change in the carrying capacity of deer.

Mature woods has about 100 lbs. of forage available for deer per acre, while foodplots in good soil planted and maintained well can produce 10,000 lbs of forage per acre and if you planted winter carryover forage in addition to attractant food plots for your pleasure you can feel comfortably in knowing that your deer are taken care of year round.

I have about 60 deer per square mile in my hunting area, which seems high and it is compared to the state goal of 34. Yet 10 years age there was at least 100 deer per square mile in this same area and the farmers were screaming, including me. There was a big push in harvesting deer by the farmers and the DNR local field biologists. Example, in a two square mile area four farmers in 1998 including me harvested 120 doe. Today very few farmers are still complaining in my area even at 60 deer per square mile. You need to make an informed decision as to what your immediate deer density should be. With very good habitat (including a variety of productive food plots) you just may be able to carry more deer without negatively impacting the deer, the habitat or your neighbors. It calls for watchfull management on your part if you go in this direction of more deer. QDM is healthy deer and working with affected neighbors.

Keep the fun in hunting!
 

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Ed,
You said that we have about 38,000 sq. miles of deer habitat out of about 58,000 sq. miles statewide. That means that 34.5% of the land is not available for deer habitat. That number seems to high to me. I have no actual information to base my feeling on, simply 20,000 sq. miles of land not available for deer habitat seems like too much. Is the number 38,000 the number used by the DNR to figure deer density ?
Thanks in advance for any info.
If anyone is interested I got my deer survey today from the DNR. I also got one about 10 yrs. ago & my son got one about 6 yrs. ago. I believe they send one out to about 1 in every 14 hunters.
L & O
 

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Ed - Should've known I'd find you here:) Thanks for the emails to my questions lately. You mentioned that you had approx 60 deer per square mile in your area. How did you determine that?
 

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I've built the best deer habitat around and watched the deer numbers explode in 5 short years.

How do you factor in the 4-5 months a year the deer are in the yards into carrying capacity? No deer from mid December to late April is typical.
 

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Liver & Onions:

The 38,000 square miles of deer habitat comes from the DNR's goal of having 1.3 million deer statewide with 30-35 deer per square mile also as their goal. They estimate there is now 1.7 million deer and at 45 per square mile average. Simple math equals 38,000 square miles. for 34 deer per square mile with a total of 1.3 million deer or 38,000 square miles at 45 deer with 1.7 million total. Yeah, we know there are deer in areas not being accounted for, like in cemeteries, airports etc. but it's only a number and its something to start with.

RZDRMH:

Concerning your guestion as to how I estimate 60 deer per squae mile in my area. Same thing its a guesstimate with deer observations and deer harvests used as input. Lately we have been harvesting statewide about 80% of all the bucks, 25 % of all the does and around 15% of all the fawns. Getting this harvest number from the DNR for your area, making a few math exercises, compare the answer to what the DNR field biologists thinks the deer density is in your area and add your own guesstimate useing your own deer observations in late July, August and the bow season, mix them all up and you have a number. Is it accurate? yeah but who knows for sure, maybe about 75% accuate.but that's close enough for me.

Keep the fun in hunting!
 

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45 deer per square mile Statewide now??

I highly doubt that figure!! More like 20-25 deer per square mile. If 40,000 square mile contains 25 deer per square mile, it equates to 1 million deer. 1.75 million deer exists in the DNR's dream world.

What is even more interesting is many clubs have gone thru the QDM stage and are back to TDM. Not in the buck harvest, but they now see the deer numbers being reduced to unacceptable low levels and are stopping ALL doe harvests. They are correctly allowing their bucks to mature but the overharvest of does is beginning to be a major problem.
 

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matinc

Not being critical but where do you get your figures and the stats you're are quoteing about more clubs quitting QDM? I would be interested to read about it.
 

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I have no problem accepting the DNR's estimate of a 1.7 million pre-harvest deer herd.

Given the crappy estimate of this year's antlerless harvest (looks like an even high proportion of the harvest mix was bucks in 2003 than 2002), I would expect that we'll have even more deer around next year.

To get to 1.3 million, we probably need to take more does than bucks, and we're not even close. We harvest a smaller proportion of does in our harvest than any surrounding state.

Deer density varies widely, and it should! Some areas of the state, with poor habitat, should only have 5-8 deer per square mile - any more than that, and the habitat will degrade, and the health of the deer would be compromised. To score in an area like that, you need to be very good or very lucky.
 

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I think I have to agree with farmlegend. I also believe the DNR population estimate but I also believe the population is not evenly distributed throughout the state. Maybe that is why some get so upset with the figures. They think stated figures are directly related to their area when the figure are more of a statewide average. Then maybe not.

Seems I have seen about the same numbers of deer year after year and mostly does too. But when I talk with family that have been hunting a long time they tell stories of seeing few deer when they started out hunting and there was never any thought of getting a deer for sure or at least not like it is now days.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That 5-8 deer per square mile, as far as I know, only applies to the Lake Superior Watershed. But, that population figure is misleading in that the SUMMER carrying capacity can support 35 deer per square mile, but it is the winter severity, and length of winter that keeps the deer pop. in check, whether hunters do or not. So, in that particular area of the state, antlerless harvest is a non-issue, and in fact should never be permitted, as winter will always glean-off surplus animals, if needed, and populations will never skyrocket out of control.

It is extremely difficult to find an area elsewhere in the state that will not support at least 30 deer per square mile of habitat.
 

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Support, perhaps, but optimal health, probably not. Jack Pine plains, NE lower, or big expanses of mature hardwoods (esp. beech/maple) wherever you find them, are a couple spots that come to mind that can probably support a thriving population of 8-10 per square mile, but things degrade at higher densities. On the other hand, good ag areas, as long as they have adequate year-round cover and water, can probably handle 60 or so, but run the risk of exposing deer to social stress.
 
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