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#547501 - 01/02/08 05:28 PM Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests
Archer212
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Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 10
Loc: PA

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This is a little long so please bear with me. The idea of how to keep bucks close to home and within the boundaries of a property is constantly being written about in various magazines and discussed on multiple outdoor forums. Many hunting clubs and landowners keep looking for the answer to this issue but never
seem to solve the problem. Our group here in Pennsylvania is no different.

I would like to provide some information about our area, our hunting results and then look at some ideas that some of you may have about our situation.

The area we practice deer management on is slightly over 1500 acres of hardwoods, secondary growth (crabapples, brush, new growth, etc...) and agriculture fields (350 acres). These fields are leased to a farmer who typically plants them in soybeans, corn and alfalfa. The property is somewhat rectangle shaped and has access via township roads. The surrounding properties are mostly posted which means limited hunting but they have no real structured deer management programs and are not interested in deer management. There are twenty hunters on our ground with 10-12 being true "die-hards". We have been practicing antler restrictions since 1995 (16” or wider). We allow no deer drives on the property. All hunting is basically stand-hunting.

We have aggressively been trying to harvest antlerless deer within the license allocations that are available in PA. Our goal is to prevent habitat destruction, minimize crop damage and try to maintain a good buck to doe ratio. Here are harvest results since we started keeping records in 1998.

Year Bucks 16”> - Does
1998 4 - 30
1999 3 - 32
2000 8 - 54
2001 6 - 49
2002 10 - 82
2003 6 - 70
2004 9 - 73
2005 8 - 72
2006 6 - 68
2007 6 - 53

Each buck is aged by cementum aging at a lab so we feel we have a fairly accurate reading of the age of the buck's being harvested. As an example of what we are seeing, in 2006, we had two - 2.5 years olds, three - 3.5 year olds and one - 4.5 year old. We just sent the teeth in from 2007 so we are not sure about this year's ages.

We have four sanctuaries on the property in size from 5 to 15 acres. Over the last 10 years, various segments of the property have been selectively logged. We have multiple food plots planted in sizes from ¼ acre to 3 acres (The 3 acre plot is entirely inside one of our no hunting sanctuaries). The plots are planted with clover and brassicas.

Each year our trail camera census shows multiple quality bucks on the property. Each year many of these are harvested off the property but this year may have been the highest off-property harvest. In fact the three largest bucks that we had photos of were all harvested off the property. At the end of the 2007 hunting season our count shows there were 16 bucks harvested on our property and the properties touching our ground that measured 16” or more. Seven were off our ground (six harvested and one found dead of unknown reasons) and nine off the property.

Understandably we know bucks travel and a 1500 acre piece of property will not hold every buck within its boundaries. We never expected for some bucks not to be harvested on other properties. However I guess what we are struggling with is that when you compare our property, its habitat, food source availability, etc…. and then compare it to the other properties, we cannot put a finger on a problem with our property and bucks not staying "home".

What we are starting to look at is our antlerless deer harvests when compared to the surrounding properties. With what we feel is an aggressive approach to harvesting does as per QDM practices and comparing it to the surrounding properties very limited harvests, we are wondering if our doe harvest practice is backfiring on us. In other words are we causing bucks to venture off the property to look for mature does that are potentially in estrus? There have been many different points of view on harvesting does early, harvesting mature does and so on, but could hunting antlerless deer aggressively be detrimental to a deer management program if others around you are not?

Hopefully some of you such as BSK and others with experience with this type of scenario may have some thoughts on this dilemma or some may have thoughts on what we may be doing wrong and don't even realize it.

Again, sorry for the long posting and thanks.

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#548066 - 01/02/08 10:54 PM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: Archer212]
Oak
Spike


Registered: 07/08/07
Posts: 38
Loc: Lawrence Cty

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Great post. Sounds like ya'll are working hard to keep your herd in check. Are your buck / doe sighting pretty equal? (i.e. what is your ratio of buck to does?)

Couple things:

One possibility is that you are starting to pressure your herd a little too much. While you may not be moving the bucks off the property, they may be moving more at night. Consider using trail cams do determine what's going on.

With 1500 acres, you might consider increasing the size of your sancuaries and having less of them.

I'm not BSK, but I've read a lot of his comments and hopefully he'll post soon.

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#548376 - 01/03/08 09:38 AM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: Oak]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65673
Loc: Nashville, TN

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EXCELLENT description of your situation Archer212. Very thurough.

It's always hard to comment on a situation I haven't seen with my own eyes, and I have no idea how much control you have over the property habitat-wise, but given the amount of information provided, if I was giving recommendations to a land-owner that controlled all aspects of the property, I would recommend:

1) From my experiences, the most critical aspect to holding older to mature bucks on smaller properties is good cover habitat and sanctuaries. I like to see high-quality cover produced in many smaller patches instead of large sections. I believe having cover habitat in smaller patches reduces social pressures (dominance influences) that may affect habitat utilization. In addition, I've found that highly diverse habitat (habitat broken into many smaller pieces) will hold more deer in a healthy manner than the same total amount of habitat types in larger sections (more homgenous). I prefer to see very thinck cover produced in 3-10 acre patches, and 4 to 6 of these patches per square mile.

In addition, I like to see these patches of very thick cover set aside as sanctuaries that--if possible--are NEVER violated at any time of year. Deer are not brilliant animals, but their reputation for learning to avoid humans is legendary and well-deserved. Pressured deer will rapidly learn to shift their daylight activities towards the areas where they encounter the least human scent. If thick-cover sanctuaries are human-scent free year-round, deer, and especially heavily pressured older bucks will definitely shift their patterns towards those sanctuaries. I've found that once these types of small sanctuaries are created in a "patchwork quilt" across a property, the property can withstand much higher hunting pressure without experiencing a significant decline in deer usage.


2) I don't know how your seasons and bag limits work, but if possible, I would suggest an "experiment" where you attempt to harvest the necessary does AFTER your peak buck hunting period. I think attempting this two years in a row would give you a good feel towards whether your high doe harvests are pressuring bucks off the property. Removing does is not the problem (bucks DON'T go to where there are more does--that's an old wive's tale), but the timing of all that doe harvest pressure may be the problem.
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#548807 - 01/03/08 05:58 PM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: BSK]
Archer212
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Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 10
Loc: PA

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BSK & Oak:

Thank you for your comments and I would like to follow up with some additional information.

Pennsylvania’s hunting seasons are fairly established in tradition and have been this way for many years. The bow season starts within the first few days of October and runs for six weeks with no Sunday hunting (buck or doe). Typically it ends around Veteran’s Day. During the third week of October and concurrent with the early archery season, there is a seven-day muzzleloader season for antlerless deer when in-line muzzleloaders may be used. This was put in to provide more hunting opportunities and to remove antlerless deer early. During the last three days of that same week, youths and senior hunters can hunt for antlerless deer with rifles. Our rifle season always starts the first Monday after Thanksgiving and runs for two weeks (excluding Sundays). Typically the major rut is over by rifle season with only some secondary action. Most of the time in PA it seems like the major rut activity occurs after our archery season closes and before our gun season starts. These twelve days of rifle season are buck or doe. The day after Christmas starts a three week archery / muzzleloader (only flintlock) season. Only one buck can be harvested in PA. Usually two antlerless deer tags are available to everyone.

Looking at our records, our group typically harvests about 12-14 does in the early archery season and the muzzleloader season. The remaining antlerless deer are harvested in the two-week rifle season. We’ve had about 2 or 3 harvested in the late muzzleloader season, but usually the harvest is low due to weather conditions, little deer movement and other conditions.

Without doubt our rifle season is when the vast majority of the animals are harvested. With that said, our hunting area seems to have a lot of natural movement harvests versus what is commonly seen in PA. Of the six bucks harvested on the property in 2007, one was taken in the early archery season, one the first day of rifle, two on the sixth day, one on the ninth day and the last one on the tenth day. Looking at the 2006 season and the six bucks harvested, again one was harvested in the early archery season, one the second day of rifle season, one the sixth day, one the eighth day, one the ninth day and one on the last day of the rifle season.

I had mentioned in my origin post that nine bucks of 16” or more were harvested on the bordering properties in 2007. Of those, the three largest were all harvested during the rifle season on the 6th, 8th and 10th days.

BSK - As stated in the original post we have four sanctuaries that vary in size. We never enter them and everyone knows they are off limits. We only enter to plant the food plot inside the 15-acre plot in late July. We have tried to add more sanctuaries but some of our other thickest / nasty areas are close to the boundaries. We didn’t think that would be wise. We may have to re-visit that idea and use your recommendation of adding a few small ones here and there. Some areas that were logged may now fit the parameters for a sanctuary.

Also as you can see from my description of our hunting seasons, waiting until after the "peak buck hunting" season (which would be our rifle season) would only allow us to try and harvest antlerless deer after Christmas. Any thoughts after I explained our hunting seasons in more detail?

Again I just thought I would provide some additional information on the situation we have. Maybe this information will show something else we are doing wrong that is allowing bucks to wander around and off the property.

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#549342 - 01/03/08 11:01 PM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: Archer212]
Oak
Spike


Registered: 07/08/07
Posts: 38
Loc: Lawrence Cty

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I have to say that our club could take a lesson from your record keeping ... another good post.

Hunter pressure from other leases around ours has allowed us to harvest some of our largest bucks. They do a fine job of taking plenty of does (and unfortunately several younger bucks). In doing so, they actually push a lot of big bucks our way. What's ironic is that these leases have most of the thickest sanctuaries around (too thick to get into). These areas are also scattered and small. This is one reason that I would suggest larger santuaries (maybe in the middle of your property if possible).

Good luck and keep us posted on your efforts.

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#549362 - 01/03/08 11:46 PM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: Oak]
4onaside
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Registered: 02/07/06
Posts: 5129
Loc: Jackson,Tn

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I know that this is not what you want to hear, and I am a "deer manager" only to the extent that I am continually satisfied with the hunting opportunities on my own place, but I am of the opinion that nothing you can do will keep a mature whitetail buck exclusively on your own 1500 acre property. While everything that you are doing appears to be as close to state of the art management as is possible,for which I commend you, the fact(IMO the fact) remains that a buck's home range overlaps your property and others, and whatever you do to attract and hold them on your place, will not be successful all of the time, due to the nature of the beast. I honestly believe that the only thing that you can do to guarantee "your" bucks will stay on you is a high fence. Good luck, and thanks for an outstanding, knowledgable post.
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No one's eyes go bad looking on the bright side of life.

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#549518 - 01/04/08 08:00 AM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: 4onaside]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
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Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65673
Loc: Nashville, TN

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Archer212,

I was afraid of that. Your seasons/bag limits are not conducive to taking does after peak buck harvest time.

The only thing I can recommend is more "pockets" of thick cover set aside as sanctuaries.

Would I be correct in assuming your neihbors don't shoot as many does as you do?
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#549529 - 01/04/08 08:06 AM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: BSK]
BSK
Jerkasourous of the non-typical kind
Non-Typical


Registered: 03/11/99
Posts: 65673
Loc: Nashville, TN

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Oak,

A large, centrally located sanctuary certainly works, but the problems I've seen with these set-ups is hunters make the sanctuary so large that mature bucks can live in them full-time, never coming out during legal hunting hours. In addition, a single mature buck can "dominate" a large section of a big sanctuary. If the sanctuaries are broken into multiple smaller sections it seems to "spread out" dominance factors over a wider area (lots of patches of cover gives mature bucks a chance to keep out of each others' way a bit more).

In addition, it is easier to hunt the outer edges of small sanctuaries. There may be only 2 or 3 primary entrance and exit routes from a smaller sanctuary, while there can be dozens of entrance/exit routes from a large sanctuary.



4onaside,

Absolutely smaller properties won't contain the entire range of a mature buck, especially during the rut. But what really matters is where a buck spends his daylight hours (legal hunting hours). That will usually be in thick cover. If you can provide the best cover and the best sanctuaries, you can tend to hold the older bucks during daylight. But they are going to wander far and wide at night.
_________________________
"Know where you stand, and stand there" --Jesuit Father Daniel Berrigan

"There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into." --Clive James

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#549629 - 01/04/08 09:14 AM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: BSK]
remington
4 Point


Registered: 11/22/02
Posts: 237
Loc: Roanoke Rapids N.C. USA

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Thats our problem, we have a huge sanctuary on our place. It's a 8yr old cutover..problem is it's about 160acres. There's no telling whats in there and what we will never see.
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#549761 - 01/04/08 10:55 AM Re: Wandering Bucks & Doe Harvests [Re: remington]
Archer212
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Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 10
Loc: PA

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BSK:

You are absolutely correct about the surrounding properties not harvesting antlerless deer. We see most people only interested in harvesting bucks; especially better than average bucks. We know we have to try to control the herd to reduce crop damage, maintain forest regeneration and have a more natural buck / doe ratio but it seems like we are the only doing it. As an example this year, one neighboring property is 42 acres in size. There were four bucks harvested on the property this year of 16” or greater. They told us they harvested two antlerless deer. Another property of 250 acres had only four antlerless deer harvested.

Obviously you don’t know our deer per square mile ratio but based on our harvest numbers listed in my original post and the description of the property, are our antlerless deer harvests typical of what you see in other properties of similar size that you may be associated with?

Your patchwork sanctuary method and the reasons why to utilize that approach seems to have lots of merit for our problem. A few questions…………..

How close to a boundary do you think is too close for a sanctuary. We have a one other very good area but it is only 125 yds. away from a boundary?

If we have used up our thickest areas or they are too close to a boundary, what would be an alternative type of habitat to use or would it not be worth it?

I had mentioned that our largest sanctuary (most likely our thickest made up of pines, crabapples, spice bush, etc….) has a food plot inside of it. We put it there and plant it with brassicas to provide an area for bucks to have a food source during the hunting seasons in an undisturbed area. Even though it reduces the chances of our group seeing these deer, we felt it was a way to help them survive. Have you seen this done and does it have merit?

Again, thanks to everyone for your input and thoughts.

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