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Guide Prepares Deer Hunters For Correct Harvest
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Bagging a trophy buck requires patience and a careful shot, but it also usually means someone managed the deer herd so the buck was out there to harvest.
Every deer that is harvested impacts the rest of the herd. Careful management can ensure deer herds stay healthy and desirable bucks are available for future hunting. Herds are unhealthy if there are disproportionate numbers of does or young bucks.
Dean Stewart, Extension wildlife specialist at Mississippi State University, said hunters are deer managers since harvesting animals is a very important part of the management scheme.
"Over the last two or three decades, interest has increased in managing for healthier deer herds and higher quality animals," Stewart said. "You can manage habitat, protect deer from poachers and you can harvest the correct deer through legal hunting."
But harvesting deer of the desired age and sex requires education. Hunters, landowners or hunting clubs often seek advice from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks through the Deer Management Assistance Program. Dmap takes the harvest data collected by hunters and analyzes it according to the goals sought for the herd. Dmap then determines which deer hunters should harvest next year to reach the long-term deer herd quality goals.
Once hunters know what deer should be harvested, the hard part becomes identifying them in the woods.
"To improve a deer herd, you have to selectively harvest animals. You can't just indiscriminately shoot an animal," said Dr. Stephen Demarais, deer ecologist with MSU's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "To know which one to harvest, you have to know something about the herd."
MSU's Extension Service and Forest and Wildlife Research Center have a new publication that helps hunters identify deer. "A Hunter's Guide to Aging and Judging Live White-Tailed Deer in the Southeast" is available from MSU's Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for $2 a copy. Authors are Demarais, Stewart and Bob Griffin, retired district administrator with MDWFP.
"We provide a few criteria for aging and sexing live, wild white-tailed deer before harvest," Stewart said. "That allows the hunter to practice this selective harvest based on a club or hunter's individual goals."
The publication gives hunters information to help them distinguish between a doe and a nubbin buck, and to determine the age of a deer so they ensure they only harvest mature bucks. Pictures and detailed, written descriptions are provided of deer in several stages of life.
To receive a copy of the publication, contact county Extension offices for order forms, or call the MSU Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at (662) 325-3174.