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What is a healthy buck to doe ratio?
Buck to doe in my area seems disproportionate... what is a healthy herd ratio? scentman
I think a wildlife biologist will tell you a sound buck:doe ratio is 1:1 up to 1:3.
Look at the question another way - if you 'protect' does and wind up with a 10-1 ratio, with over-population problems, what is a good 'target' ratio?
For example, Colorado's buck to doe ratio for both wt and mule deer, the average ratio is 31 bucks for a 100 does across the state, based on all game management units. So approx, three does per one buck.
That is something that I do not try to control and here is why. It is hard to have a ratio worse than 1 to 2. Say that you have good habitat, and each doe has two fawns, 1 buck and 1 doe. Everyone kills every antlered buck they see and all of the 1 1/2 and older males are killed. No one shoots a doe and there is no natural mortality. Certainly, the worst-case scenario. Going into the next season you have 2 does that are 1 1/2 or older and one buck that is 1 1/2 or a 2 to 1 ratio. I focus on shooting does for population control purposes only with the feeling that too few is way better that too many if I want big, healthy deer. If there is good food, cover and does, dispersing bucks will make a home there. Harvest bucks based on your goals. If everyone is happy shooting a 1 1/2, you can harvest a lot and have a great time plus kill about half of your adult does for added action. Your healthy herd will just keep cranking them out. If impressive 2 1/2 bucks make the hunter's days, protect the 1 1/2s and still shoot about half of the mature does. Once you start protecting bucks that are 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 some of your hunters may stop having fun where others will really enjoy the challenge. Shoot what you like for bucks and your buck age structure will adjust accordingly. Simple!
I think 1 to 1 is no good. You have hunter kills, predator kills, disease, roadkill, natural death taking out does every year. I think 1 to 3 is probably about right.
Buck to die ratios fix very quickly. Very quickly. There are a couple important things you can do to maximize that. Kill does. Try to make them mature does. And produce great habitat.
In my opinion, 1/3 is about as good as it gets.
Is everyone using 1 1/2 year old bucks and older to 1 1/2 year old does and older or antlered deer to antlerless deer? With a 1 to 1 ratio with adult deer and each doe having two fawns the ratio of antlered to antlerless is 1 to 3. When we were harvesting a large number of adult does it was common to see herds of 4 to 7 fawns running together late in the season w/o a mature doe in the group. The largest deer in the group would be buck fawn. There are also a lot of Amish hunters in the area so the pressure on the mature does was significant. It was common to see a couple of 1 1/2 year old bucks with a one buck limit and 8-10 fawns and one or no mature does in a day. The ratio of antlered to antlers seen for the day would be 1 to 5 but adults would be 2 to 1 or 2 to 0.
I think too many people focus on a healthy buck to doe ratio when they should be focused on what is a healthy carrying capacity for the habitat that you have.
If you wish to maintain the habitat that you have now you must shoot 35% of the does that you have on your property every year. If you wish to improve the habitat then you have to shoot 50% or more of the does.
I often put out one of those red salt blocks that the farmers use for their cattle. The deer use it year round and as soon as the fawns are born they start using it. The blocks are cheap and my woods has some really nice bucks and big does. Put one of the huge does in the freezer and let the bucks walk. I try to kill some does every year. I would say I have pretty close to 1;1 ratio in my woods. I have five bucks that visit my garden to eat the cover crop and 8 antlerless deer but some of them may be young bucks.
In an unhunted population it is approximately 2:1. Two does for every buck. Bucks have a higher mortality rate which is why it isn’t even. I sat in on a talk given by Dr. DeNicola of White Buffalo, Inc. which gets hired to control deer herds in places that can’t or aren’t allowed to be hunted. At the time of the talk (Southeastern Deer Study Group meeting if I remember correctly) he had 1000’s of data points from these unhunted herds and that was one of his takeaways among others.
Pretty difficult to get the ratios this tight or tighter in hunted populations due to the bias towards buck harvest. 3:1 is probably more realistic for most areas.
Piece of land I bought in September based on trail camera surveys I am sure I have at least as many bucks as does if not more. I think I have 7 bucks and approx 6-7 skinheads on 320 acres. But some of the fawns will be buck fawns. Last winter was bad in the area. Big timber not ag.
So not sure if it is due to a bad winter die off, but this is a wild herd at that ratio. It happens.
When are you measuring your buck to doe ratio? The ratio in February will be drastically different than the ratio in July.
AG, they usually don't include fawns in the count. Late winter mortality might alter the numbers some. Depends on food, fat reserves, how harsh the winter is, etc.
When I started hunting Vermont was a bucks only state. The herd was two to three times what it is now. I saw about fifty deer in eight days of hunting. Out of the fifty deer one may have had antlers. Now I see few deer but I did see two bucks in my hunting. The deer are larger and the antlers are bigger than years past. The habitat can certainly be improved. It is all about carrying capacity . The buck to doe ratio is secondary.
Dana is correct. I conduct a helicopter survey in South TX every October on a 13,000 ranch prior to hunting - you look at adult bucks and adult does and look at doe:fawn ratio separately. We typically average 70% fawn crop. This year due to the severe drought we had a 4% (yes 4) fawn crop! Basically an entire year class gone. Our management goal on this ranch is 1.5:1 doe:buck ratio. It is honestly difficult to get to that ratio. You HAVE to stay on the does annually. You will end up with buck mortality and a lot of broken up racks during the rut guaranteed. You will also see unbelievable rutting action and rattling brings in the bucks on a string. Let the doe harvest slip even one year and you’ll be back up to 2:1 almost immediately.
I agree with goyt. Also, like elk but to a much lessor degree, a higher buck to doe ratio will help hunting bucks during the rut. They will cruise more and actively purse does more. Right next to my sliver of land the local park system starting shooting does like crazy recently. I see more bucks more often now. I am sure a big part is because more are not dying of starvation but they are also more active near the rut.
I am to the point where I believe the carrying capacity is near its limit in my part of WNY, I also truly believe we have at best a 1 buck to 8 doe ratio before the hunting season... so, if we concentrate on harvesting more does and passing on the buck population for 1 season we help both, the carrying capacity and buck to doe ratio. Correct?
What should a person do if they have a lot of does now due to better food source than the neighbors? My SC property is holding a lot more does, and bucks , than last year due to plots being much better. Neighbors dont really have much for plots, mostly just fairly open tracts of woods. Neighbors shoot most every deer they get a chance at it seems. I have a dilemma as i dont want to shoot the does on my place and i definitely wont be shooting bucks under 3.5 yo. I feel like i need to protect what i have as my land can support the population right now anyway.
We like 1-3 on our land and put out some nice quality, mature bucks. We let all bucks under 150 walk unless they are mature and carry inferior racks genetically. This year I shot a mature 8 pt that gross scored just over 140 just to get him out of the gene pool. We all shoot our limit of does and also invite youngsters and have "doe days" (trying to watch for button bucks) when necessary to further keep the balance in check. Too many does seems to make weak rut action as well.
If you have a lot of does it is not tough for a big buck to find the next one, and as such your "rut action" may suffer. The flip side of that coin though, is if you are in a high pressure area, and your neighbours pound everything - the high number of does could be a good thing, as your larger bucks don't need to search far and wide for does, and thus are more likely to make it through the season...all the while staying on your land.
The other problem with too few bucks is that un-bred does just keep cycling ’til they conceive. So, instead of just once, the rut cycle goes through over and over and over, and instead of stressing their bodies for a few weeks every year, the bucks keep it up for several months, and then they are so depleted that they have very poor chances of making it through a bad winter, or dealing with abundant predators. Meanwhile, the fawns are not dropping all at the same time, and so the predators have access to a supply of very small, easily captured fawns not just once, but again several rounds.
That’s hell on the fawn crop, but doesn’t do anything to improve the sex ratios.
There is only one predator that selectively targets males. That’s unnatural. Dispersal does naturally lead to higher mortality among 1.5 YO bucks, but it’s nothing at all like the way humans crop off 85% or more of every year’s 1.5 cohort….
At this point in the season a 50/50 mix in my freezer would be perfect.
I understood a doe could only cycle 3 times, at least here in the Northeast, bucks can only breed till their antlers shed, lack of testosterone do shortened sunlight.
Scentman you are correct an intense rut only lasts a few weeks and is pretty consistent in that specific area. Different parts of many states in the south see the rut at slightly different times. Doe don’t cycle all at the same time so there is breeding happening from October into January in some places but not the intense part of the rut that stresses a buck. Carrying capacity is the reason game management is important. Bigger bucks and a more intense rutting activity is a nice benefit of a proper carrying capacity for hunters.
"Dispersal does naturally lead to higher mortality among 1.5 YO bucks, but it’s nothing at all like the way humans crop off 85% or more of every year’s 1.5 cohort…. "
I can remember 20 or so years ago when Vermont instituted a 3-points-or-better rule for bucks. Lots of complaining the first few years until results were better quality bucks overall.
Along the same lines as Dana said, 12 counties in northwestern Lower Peninsula in Michigan went to the 3 point on one side rule in 2013. Wow what a difference we are now seeing . I got a 10 point that was 22 inches wide . Something like that was almost unheard of prior to the rule change . Michigan still allows 2 bucks though . The other buck must be 4 points or more on one side . Some of the locals who were the most vocal against this rule change are now saying ,maybe the DNR should go to a one buck limit . On my 45 I am still seeing 10 or more does to one buck . My wife took 2 does with bow . Only need so much meat ,with a moose and bear in freezer from this year. They now allow a person to purchase up to 10 antler less tags .
Bow Crazy's Link
Goyt you really have it figured out huh. Buckhammer how coukd you make that assessment not knowing the habitat? Most people's opinion on deer ratios and habitat capacity is nothing better than wrong.
Here is a great article from the National Deer Association (formally QDMA) on doe to buck ratios, from the article, "I often hear hunters, outdoor writers, and even biologists refer to 10:1 or 15:1 doe:buck ratios. These cannot be pre-hunt adult ratios because as long as the deer herd is reproducing and recruiting fawns, the ratio cannot become more skewed than about five does per buck." BC
Bow Crazy, thanks for finding and linking the article. The example in the article has only 1 of 39 bucks being a surviving adult buck from the previous year and 38 are the previous year fawns. This shows how the number of bucks is dependent on the quality of the habitat and the age structure of the bucks is dependent on buck harvest. Where my land is in Ohio we have pretty much no winter kill. Also, a significant number of the doe fawns will conceive at 7 to 8 month and have a fawn the next spring with quality habitat. I suspect even though the adult does may average about 1.2 fawns that does not include the impact of the fawns from the previous years fawns having fawns. In fact if the survey is based on the number of fawns seen with does, the previous year's fawns with fawns would significantly impact the recruitment numbers per adult doe because previous year fawns normally only have one fawn. In fact the recruitment of fawns each year would be higher than what would be estimated by just multiplying the number of adult does times an estimated fawn survival number. Regardless the article does a great job pointed out how thing work.