White-tailed deer

Abstract

Title:  Impacts of Selective Harvest Criteria on Cohort Antler Size and Management Objectives in Georgia's Piedmont
Author(s): William D. Gulsby - University of Georgia; Charlie H. Killmaster - Georgia Department of Natural Resources; John W. Bowers - Georgia Department of Natural Resources; James A. Martin - University of Georgia; Karl V. Miller - University of Georgia
Year: 2015
Abstract: Use of antler-based, selective harvest criteria (SHC) to improve male age structure in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations is popular among some public and private lands managers. Although previous research has demonstrated that SHC may inadvertently decrease antler size in older (=2.5 years old) age classes due to disproportionate harvest of large-antlered yearling males, this effect is apparently site dependent. Thus, we compared mean cohort antler size of males =2.5 years old harvested under two SHC to males harvested under no SHC using a mixed model informed by hunter-harvest data collected from 2003-2013 on 11 wildlife management areas (WMA) in the Piedmont physiographic region of Georgia. We also determined the proportion of each cohort protected from harvest under each SHC using data from a subset of WMA with no SHC. On average, 2.5 and 3.5 year old males harvested under the most restrictive SHC (16 in beam length or 15 in inside spread [BS]) had larger antlers than those harvested under either a four points on one side (FOS) SHC or no SHC. However, antler size was similar among treatments for males =4.5 years old. Both SHC protected a large proportion (>96%) of yearling males, but the BS SHC protected a greater proportion of 2.5 and 3.5 year old males than the FOS SHC. Because both SHC protected a significant proportion of young males without leading to a decrease in cohort antler size, these criteria appear to be an effective method to increase male age structure of deer populations in the Piedmont of Georgia.

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