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Old 12-30-2009, 08:35 AM
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The best deer management regulations?

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So, I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the CWD and excess of deer in southern Wisconsin, as well as the seemingly wiped out deer herds in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. At the same time, my family and I enjoyed one of the best seasons ever, here in central Indiana. My feeling is that the regulations our DNR adopted 5 or 6 years ago, are the reason we have such a healthy deer population, including a good number of "shooter" bucks.

Our regs only allow a hunter to harvest ONE buck during all regular seasons, combined. That means if you take one with your bow, in the early season, you cannot shoot a buck with your gun or ML, later in the year. I know a lot of guys hate these regulations, but the end result has been impossible to argue with. Even the hunters that were screaming about this, when it was first set up, will grudgingly admit that it has had the desired effect! We have somewhat fewer deer, because more does are harvested (key to any good management plan, imho) but we have a remarkable increase in the buck:doe ratio, which has naturally resulted in quite a few larger bucks.

Anyway, I'd like to put together a list of other states/zones to get an idea of how deer herds are managed in other parts of the country. If you can, please post in this thread where you are located, what the regulations are for deer hunting (number of bucks you can harvest and the number of total deer allowed) as well as your perspective on whether or not you feel these regs are benefiting your deer herd, or hurting it. Please explain how you think things could be changed to improve what you are personally seeing, in your area.

I will compile a list and put it in a spreadsheet and post it for everyone to review, after I get a suitable number of entries.

Thanks and I hope to hear from many of you!

"My serious suggestion is to buy one rifle and then buy another one. And another." JBelk
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Old 12-30-2009, 09:29 AM
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How many deer does Indiana have overall? How much public land? How many hunters? What weapons are allowed? Is a particular's states gun season during the rut? Many of these variables come into play when you try to compare states and regulations.

Personally, I do not believe "one buck" is the answer. Michigan had more deer than any time in history during the late 80s. This period also coincided with 4 UNRESTRICTED buck tags. The deer population is increased or decreased by the number of DOES taken, not bucks. Here in Michigan, nearly 70% of hunters buy the combo license, but less than 5% actually fill the second buck tag. This results in a tremendous amount of revenue for game management, an increase in hunter recreational days afield, increased economic activity associated with hunters, and minimal impact on the buck resource.

The real issue here in Michigan is the devaluing of the whitetail doe from big game animal to "pest". We went from totally protecting does to trying to exterminate them. At some point, we need to figure out that there needs to be a happy medium and we need to stop allowing insurance companies and farm groups driving GAME management decisions.

With all of this said, I believe the current "big antler craze" taking over hunting will speed up the demise of sport hunting in this country. Perhaps it needs to get worse before more people step back than figure out "why" they are hunting, not "what" they are hunting.

Good thread and great discussion.
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Old 12-30-2009, 09:51 AM
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Location: Mooresville, IN
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Thanks for the response, although you didn't really give me the raw data I was hoping for, to put in the spreadsheet I would like to compile.

Indiana usually has between 600,000 and 700,000 deer. That number hasn't fluctuated a great deal with the change in regulations, although the annual growth in the herd has been stopped. We are not allowed to use traditional center-fire rifles, but are restricted in much the same was as southern MI is, to shotguns, pistols and other short to medium-range weapons. Our gun season usually starts within 5 days of the traditional Nov. 15th opener, in MI. I agree that you can't compare states like Maine, Indiana and Alabama, because of the huge difference in terrain and climate, but deer management is still about a sustainable harvest of bucks AND does.

I grew up hunting in CA where doe hunting was completely banned, for sociopolitical reasons. The DF&G for CA tried, every year, to get some limited doe harvest implemented because in many areas, the ratio was (get this!) 1:100. That's right, 1 buck to every 100 does! Believe it or not, you were allowed to shoot more than one buck per year, too!

I do firmly believe that insurance companies and the farm bureau love seeing the virtually unrestricted doe harvest, and that has seriously hurt the total population in Michigan. But, with the same regs in Wisconsin, they have balanced the herd population in the northern part of the state, while still seeing ridiculously high numbers, in southern counties. There is no question in my mind that you must have a decent percentage of doe harvest to maintain a healthy (not TOO high) deer population, and that will naturally result in more and bigger bucks.

I grew up in the generation that watched deer numbers explode, but I hunted with and listened closely to the previous generations, who remember when seeing ANY deer, was cause for excitement! A lot of those old-timers grew up hunting where good ethics and common sense told you not to shoot any of the does, because there just weren't very many deer around. Those habits and views are hard to break, but the deer population growth some states have seen in the last 10-15 years mandated a change in management practices. We had hunted only bucks for so long that we had huge herds that were way out of balance with the habitat and had so few bucks, some of the does weren't even getting bred!

So, I feel your pain, in seeing a strong resource overused and mismanaged, but if you stop and think about it, in an ideal world hunters would harvest bucks and does in equal number, without taking too many animals out of the herd, overall. That's why I feel a one-buck rule is effective, especially with a controlled doe harvest, to keep the herd in balance.

What exactly are the regs. in MI, and how would you change them?
"My serious suggestion is to buy one rifle and then buy another one. And another." JBelk
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Old 12-30-2009, 09:54 AM
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imo.....ohio should be setup to take a doe first....then your buck. no first buck. way too many deer in ohio....they are looking pretty small and seeing alot of them dying for no reason. of course who am i to say? persons opinion is all.
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Old 12-30-2009, 02:33 PM
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There is no "one single answer." To manage a deer herd, you have to know how many deer you have, how many the land can support, and what sorts of hunter populations and success ratios you'll have in the different seasons and with different weapons. It does get complicated especially if you have very short seasons that the weather can greatly affect.

Bottom line, I think that deer hunting is going to move in the direction of "so many deer per acre on this property" and that is truly what it takes. It's an easy thing to implement on large tracts with controlled numbers of hunters; not so much on many fragmented landholdings or on large areas of public land with uncontrolled numbers of hunters.

Having said all of that, we are moving in Texas to what we call "antler restrictions," that is, no shooting of mature bucks with less than 13" spread. 13" in roughly eartip to eartip. I don't know what the wardens do on a 12 7/8" deer..... the spirit of the law it to let the little ones grow up and mature and quit shooting the young forkhorns and 6 pointers.

Some counties under antler restrictions let you shoot a spike, also (defined at having one unbranched antler). In theory this lets you take out the bottom of the gene pool, but not every one agrees on this and you do have to have the sense to let button bucks walk.

Anyway, for quality deer management, most often the first step is to thin out the overpopulation of does. Hence in many counties in Texas (if not all) you can use your buck tag on a doe, if you don't take a buck. I can assure you, anytime there is a description of 20 or 30 or more does running together in the middle of winter, you already have an overpopulation problem. That's just a sign there isn't enough food for all of them. Shoot a few, if you can, you'll be doing the environment a favor.

Books have been literally written on the subject - one forum thread won't cover it. Sympathize with those who are living where it's gotten underpopulated to the extent you don't see anything during the season.

Originally Posted by faucettb
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Old 12-30-2009, 05:50 PM
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Yeah Mike, I guess you're's certainly complicated and no one solution is going to work for more than a handful of areas. FWIW, several counties in NW California had 3 point (western count) or better regs for many years and as a result had much better bucks, overall. Those counties had a limited draw each year but many quality bucks were harvested there.

I guess the rules Indiana implemented have worked well for our state because we don't have too many hunters for the amount of deer and because our biologists have been either careful or fortunate that we haven't harvested too many does. I would hate to see a radical reduction the overall population, but I do enjoy seeing more bucks and bigger bucks, while hunting. Since my family owns a little land in NW Michigan, I hope the herd recovers well there, in the coming years.
"My serious suggestion is to buy one rifle and then buy another one. And another." JBelk
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Old 12-30-2009, 05:53 PM
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If I were you and were really interested, I would get the book, Producing Quality Whitetail, by Al Brothers and Murphy Ray. Just google it.
This is an old book and pretty much "the Bible" on deer management in Texas. On large ranches, it is easier to accomplish changing the whole structure of your deer herd, but down here smaller farms and ranches have started co-ops where several land owners come together under the same hunting guidelines, and it seems to be working.
The land in question will only produce so many deer per acre and so many trophy bucks per acre, that's what you must juggle.
But if you have the right group of hunters, landowners, and the right plan in place, it will work.
You can e-mail or write the Texas Wildlife Dept to get info on the co-ops.
They are a great source of information and are happy to share it.
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Old 12-31-2009, 07:34 AM
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This topic is being argued constantly on my other favorite outdoor forum, I grew up in Michigan and in the 70's an average hunter could expect to shoot a deer every 5 to 7 years. State-wide hunter success ratio was approximately 17%.

In the mid 90s I moved to Tennessee. About three years ago Tennessee created a designation of "L" (Liberal Harvest) and assigned it to counties in the middle of the state. Since then they've added more counties. The state-wide limit is three bucks per year, but in L counties you can shoot 3 does a day.

So far this has been working out very well. the buck:doe ratio is getting back in line, and even though you can still shoot up to three bucks (no antler size restrictions) the average age of harvested bucks has been going up yearly. This has been my best year ever; seen more bucks than ever before, and though the does have been hiding more during the day, they still show up enough to keep things interesting.

Unless things change and we see some dramatic negative effects, I hope the TWRA leaves the regulations as they are.
It's not rocket surgery, for crying outside!
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Old 12-31-2009, 08:09 AM
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If we can learn from the mistakes Michigan made and reduce the doe harvest BEFORE any "dramatic negative effects", that would be ideal. It does make me nervous to see so many does harvested, but that is definitely what it takes to control herd growth and balance the ratio, especially if there are way too many does, already.
"My serious suggestion is to buy one rifle and then buy another one. And another." JBelk
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Old 12-31-2009, 09:01 AM
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New Jersey has too many deer (according to Fish & Game). There
are car killed deer lying all over the place in rural areas. The State
has one of the most liberal deer limits I have ever heard of. You
can almost shoot all the does you want to during certain seasons.
It's not unusual for someone to shoot 5 to 10 deer a season. Yet
the herd doesn't seem to get smaller.

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Old 12-31-2009, 12:26 PM
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Missouri rules

In Missouri you are allowed to take 3 bucks total. One with your rifle during rifle or muzzle loader season and two with your bow, one before rifle season and one after. About 5 years ago they enforced the rule that does are unlimited but the tags have a fee of 7 dollars each. Within the past two years they have enforced a rule of at least 4 points on one side to help in growing larger bucks. Personally I believe the unlimited does is bad and the reason for that is simple for me to see. Before the rule was passed we had a herd of does (full grown mature does that is, anywhere from 8 to 10) that ran and stayed on no more than a square mile. Now there is about 3 to 4. That is just based on me seeing them the past few winters when they are all together compared to 5 or 6 years ago. Also we (my dad and i) have not takin a doe off our farm in probably 3 to 4 years just because we like having them around grant it we have land other places that there are fewer hunters that hunt and more land to manage so its all hard to compare. Hope this helps and happy new year
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