Abstract

Title:  Deer Hunter Distribution and Implications for Deer Harvest Management
Author(s): Duane R. Diefenbach, James C. Finley, A. E Luloff, Harry C. Zinn, Gary J. San Julian, Craig B. Swope
Year: 2005
Abstract: Deer population and harvest management programs generally do not explicitly consider the temporal and spatial distribution of hunters, especially relative to the distribution of deer. Although hunting does not occur on all private lands, public lands are generally unregulated in Pennsylvania and most hunters believe hunting activity and harvest is greater on public lands, which results in lower deer densities. We used aerial surveys to estimate hunter density and distribution during the 2002 white-tailed deer rifle seasons on a large public land area (180 sq. miles) in north-central Pennsylvania. This area was dominated by deciduous forest, had slopes that ranged from 0 to 61 degrees, and a road network that provided access to within 1.6 miles of any location in the study area. Hunter density ranged from 0.1 – 0.5 hunters/square mile, and we estimated 87% of deer hunters hunted within 0.3 miles of a road. The distribution of hunters is explained by topography and road access and this creates de facto refugia on the landscape for deer where little harvest occurs. A simple population model, which incorporated a spatial component to deer harvest as a function of hunter distribution, indicated that recreational hunting may not be an effective tool for controlling deer populations on large tracts of public land with similar topography and road networks.

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