Deer Study Yields Interesting, Puzzling Results
It simply defies logic.
An ongoing study by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to gauge the
impact of the split buck and doe rifle season has yielded some
interesting, and puzzling, data.
Jim Stickles, the PGC’s field crew leader in charge of the study in
Wildlife Management Unit 3C, told me last week that despite having
trapped and radio-collared 91 more antlerless deer this season than
last year, the increase wasn’t reflected in the mortality results
for collared does in the study.
Here’s how it breaks down: Last year in WMU 3C there were 79 does
in the study. This year, after a winter of trapping, that figure
rose to 170 does. Last year 18 of the does in the study died
(hunting being the most common cause). So with 91 more does in the
study this year, it’s reasonable to expect the mortality figure to
take a significant jump as well, right?
At the end of the two-week rifle season, Stickles said there were
only 19 doe mortalities (14 taken by hunters) out of the 170 in the
study. With the late muzzleloader and archery seasons just getting
underway, that number could rise, but not by much.
So why didn’t the doe harvest in the study reflect the doubling of
the sample size?
Stickles said one possibility is the poor weather last season
allowed more bucks to survive for this year. As a result, more
hunters in WMU 3C shot a buck this year and called it quits, opting
not to keep hunting for a doe.
It’s a plausible explanation, and I know several hunters in WMU 3C
who did just that – shot a buck and quit hunting.
The study has at least one more year left, so we’ll see if this
trend continues next season.
Other interesting results from the study include:
* Roadkills increased from one in 2009 to 10 so far in 2010. Why?
Stickles suspected the increased truck traffic from Marcellus shale
drilling in the area was a factor.
* Going back to Stickles’ explanation for the low doe harvest,
there were 42 buck mortalities as of Dec. 16, out of 100 bucks in
the sample. Last year, with 41 bucks in the sample, 11 were killed.
The fact that the buck mortality almost quadrupled gives credence
to Stickles’ explanation for the low doe harvest.
* Predators aren’t having an impact, according to Stickles. After
two years of the study, he has yet to find any of the collared deer
that were killed by a predator. Some of the deer were preyed upon
after they were dead, but Stickles said he doesn’t have any
conclusive evidence they were killed by a coyote, bear or any other
predator. It’s true that predation is a factor when it comes to
fawns in the spring, and Stickles’ study only involves adult deer.
Still, based on his findings, it seems that adult deer hold their
own pretty well when it comes to avoiding predators.
* Lastly, one deer in the study-a young buck-traveled from
Montrose, Susquehanna County in the spring and ended up in
Loyalville, Luzerne County, this December, a straight-line distance
of 40 miles.