Who is responsible for Deer Management?
It's a common situation during summer, especially during a drought year. A landowner has some acreage that includes timber, pasture and a variety of row crops. He planted soybeans back by the timber, and the deer are eating them up. The farmer says "I enjoy having the deer around but their numbers are increasing and they are causing damage to my beans. You need to do something about this."
To assess the problem, a Conservation Department representative may visit the area and suggest solutions. Included in this visit is a discussion of deer management practices, most importantly harvest. Usually the question is asked, "How many deer hunters do you allow on your property and how many did they take last year?" All too often in these situations, no hunting is allowed or it is limited to just a few relatives or friends who take mostly bucks. Therein lies the problem.
Just as often, we receive complaints from landowners about a lack of deer on their property. Usually these landowners have purchased property because they enjoy hunting, but they are seeing fewer deer each deer season. Usually there are too many hunters and they are taking too many does each year. Deer densities are slowly decreasing. The common element in each of these situations is that landowners have a tremendous influence on deer densities on their properties.
Deer and other wildlife belong to the citizens of Missouri. The Conservation Department is responsible for stewardship of these important resources. We set regulations to ensure that the resources will be maintained at levels in the best interest of the public. This means having enough deer so people who enjoy hunting and watching deer have a reasonable opportunity, but not so many that deer problems get out-of-hand.
Deer hunting is essential in Missouri. When deer are not hunted, survival is high and deer numbers can rapidly increase. One research project in north central Missouri showed us that 95 out of 100 does living in unhunted areas survive each year. Under these conditions, a deer herd will quadruple in just 10 years.
Harvesting bucks has little influence on overall population size because one buck can mate with many females. There can be fewer bucks than does without affecting the number of young. Doe harvest, therefore, is the key to deer management.
Prior to the 1980s, deer management was relatively easy, because most landowners wanted more deer.