Title:  Temporal and Age-group Variation in Antlered White-tailed Deer Harvest Rates
Author(s): Andrew S. Norton - University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dan Storm - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Ryan Walrath - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Mike Watt - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Tim Van Deelen - University of Wisconsin-Madison
Year: 2015
Abstract: Antlered white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) harvest rates are an important parameter for estimating deer abundance using harvest based population models. Performance of these models is closely related to variation in harvest rates among years and age groups. Furthermore, differences in exploitation rates related to weapons restrictions and hunting season structure has important implications for management considerations. Although some variation is likely explained using hunter effort, extra variation could be related to a variety of environmental, social, or management conditions. We monitored 433 antlered white-tailed deer during the hunting season from 2011 to 2014 across two study areas representing a contrast in ecological conditions, as well as land ownership and hunting traditions. During the 4 years of our study, some notable regulation changes took place that also had potential to influence harvest rates. We estimated cause-specific hazards using joint binomial and multinomial regression models to evaluate trends in harvest rates within and among hunting seasons. On average, annual harvest rates were 40% and ranged from around 25% to over 50%. These varied within the hunting season, and were highest during the traditional 9-day firearm season, despite bow hunting during the rut which included the use of crossbows in 2014. We used information from these estimates to augment parameters in population models, and to provide useful inference when considering potential impacts of various management strategies.

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