Title:  Wilderness versus non-wilderness: a comparison of white-tailed deer physiological characteristics and hunter success rates.
Author(s): Wooster, K. 0. and J. Ezell.
Year: 1991
Abstract: Harvest data from the Cohutta WMA in the Chattahooche National Forest in Georgia were examined to determine if there was a difference between white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) harvested from the Cohutta Wilderness and deer harvested outside the wilderness where typical forestry and wildlife practices occur. The 90,000 acre Cohutta WMA includes the 35,000 acre Cohutta Wilderness. The wilderness does not contain a vegetative age class less than 10 years old, while non-wilderness age classes include 6 percent less than 10 years old. In 1989, following an excellent mast yield in 1988, there was no significant difference in body weights, antler diameter, main beam length and number of points (P = 0.05). But these parameters tended to be greater outside the wilderness. Six years of mast surveys indicate that main beam length was moderately dependent on previous years mast crops (R2 = 0.35,0.59 for the 1.5 and 2.5 year age class respectively). Body weights were less predictable from mast crops (R = 0.28, 0.14 for the 1.5 and 2.5 year age class respectively). This may be due to the time of year deer are harvested. Hunter success inside the wilderness for antlered deer was 3.2 percent while outside the wilderness success was 5.7 percent. Age distribution inside the wilderness was 29 percent in the 1.5 year age class, 6 percent in the 2.5 year age class and 65 percent in the 3 1/2+ age class including 15 percent in the 6 112 age class. Outside the wilderness age distribution was 59 percent 1.5, 11 extended to locals and camp owners, only 8.6% of the lease hunters agreed. Eighty-seven percent of the permit hunters indicated that they intend to hunt the site during the 1990 hunting season. Over 80% of the permit hunters felt that the study did not considerably inconvenience them, a study of this nature was of value to the hunting public, and there should be more publicity about the study. About 55% of the permit hunters indicated they would consider leasing land to secure hunting privileges for themselves. Of those indicating they were not interested in leasing hunting privileges, only 34% said their decision would change if the land was specifically managed for deer if leasing meant less competition for hunting space. Most (97%) of the lessees were satisfied with the lease and intend to enew their membership. About 55% of the members were interested in a multi-year lease. The lessees have experienced improved hunt quality through leasing with safety ranked as the primary reason; followed by, greater harvest opportunities, less competition, ease of access, and fellowship. Sixty-three percent of the lease hunters increased the amount of time spent deer hunting because: 1. They knew they had a place to hunt, 2. They had more free time than usual, and 3. They spent money for a place to hunt.

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