Assessing deer density on your land | Living the Country Life

Assessing deer density on your land

Managing deer on your land is much harder if you don't know how many there are

I see a lot of deer in a field near my house. I’ve counted them as a herd, and have seen as many as a dozen at a time.

This is by no means an accurate assessment of the numbers in our area. White tail biologist Grant Woods says the scientific way to determine deer density is by setting out an attractant such as a mineral block, or a pile of corn. He recommends one-per-100-acres. It should attract at least 90% of them into the area. Set up trail cameras at the bait sites, and count the deer that come.
"Let's say you get 100 total buck pictures, and you uniquely identify ten bucks. So they average coming ten times apiece. Now one buck is subordinate and he only gets there four times, and a dominant buck's there 19 times or whatever, but it averages ten times apiece," says Woods. "And then it's a safe assumption that scientists use that our does and fawns are coming on that same average."

A less expensive way to tell the density of deer is by food availability. An average deer will consume about five-pounds of dry-weight food per-day. A limited amount of forage for too many deer causes over-browsing, which also impacts other wildlife species.

To see if there's enough forage, Woods recommends putting a utilization cage in a food plot when it's planted. It's a three-to-four-foot round cage made of sturdy wire, and staked into the ground.  

"What that shows me is how tall the plants will get inside where the deer can't reach versus outside where they are browsing," says Woods. "And if my plants are twice as tall or taller on the inside, I don't have enough food for the deer density."

Woods says combining the trail camera survey with the utilization cage is good science when it comes to figuring out deer density on your land.

Learn more:

Deer density and herd management

Assessing land potential for wildlife

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