Do you have enough deer on your land when it matters? What about too many? Or is the deer population timing just right for your small parcel. You will never know, if you are not seeing the right numbers, the right way, at the right time of the year! That observation can even apply to off-season shed antler discoveries. Here are 3 impotant practices for keeping tabs on the deer numbers in your area.
1. October Deer Population Numbers Matter Most
What are the herd numbers on your small parcel in February? What about July, August or Septmeber? Although discovering that a particular buck made it through the season through trail cam or shed antler is cool, the deer outside of the season that frequrent a small parcel, often do not reflect the portion of the population that you can actually influence, through hunting activities. When can you influence a herd? During the heart of the hunting season, and that heart begins during October. Your ability to attract, hold, protect and shoot deer that you see fit, is created by your ability to influence herd numbers During the hunting season - not before or after. The small parcel owners who successfully hold and attract deer during the daytime on their lands, starting in October, are truly the herd influencers for the entire neighborhood.
In most portions of the Country, herd numbers also shift greatly between the months of Summer through early Fall. Often deer are herded up and concentrated during high quality Summer deer habitat parcels, that actually lose the bulk of those deer as, frost, crop harvest and hunting pressure factors increase as the season progresses. Deer often move their preferred habitat between the months of Fall and Winter as well, leaving a web of deception as it relates to their preferred seasonal hangouts. How can you untangle the web? By completing accurate October population estimates.
2. Ditch The Corn and Camera Census Methods
Traditional scientific census practices involve corn piles and trail cameras, typically within the month of August; this practie will tell you very little about the deer population that you actually have the ability to influence. If you aren't estimating your herd numbers during the season, then your census efforts on your small parcel can significantly fall short of reality. Also, unless you live in low hunter density states similar to Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, then mature deer -both buck and doe- will often avoid fresh corn piles during the Summer months. The wrong census method at the wrong time of the year will ultimately reveal very little in relation to your ability to influence the local deer population.
3. Afternoon Quality Food Source Numbers Are Key
The landowner who controls the hunting season, afternoon food source movements in the neighborhood, are the landowners who often carry the greatest potential to influence the local herd - often for a 1/2 mile or more in any direction. Your ability to accurately estimate the afternoon deer population total on quality food sources within your parcel bounderies, will directly relate to the number of deer that you can potentially influence, for better or worse, on your land. In my experience, an extremely high % of the local deer herd will exit their bedding areas and enter hidden, diverse, afternoon food sources, well before dark. This is an outsanding opportunity for you to simply count the deer using your land during the heart of the hunting season, and compare from year to year. High quality ag or food plot food sources within or very close to your borders can be scouted by trail camera or from your treestand, to accurately reflect the October deer numbers on your land.
Scouting, following and taking census of the deer population numbers on your small parcel can be a whole lot of fun! Who doesn't like watching large numbers of deer during the Summer and Winter months, or finding a shed from next year's target buck? However, as it relates to the deer that you can influence -including buck age structure, number of overall deer and sex ratios- make sure that you focus your efforts squarely on the month of October. Are you a herd influencer? You can be if your October deer population timing efforts reveal that you are!