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Too Many Deer?

By Daryl Fisher, Biologist
Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks, and Tourism
Garden City, Kansas

Deer are a popular animal with many people. Folks who are wildlife watchers often enjoy seeing deer throughout the year. Many hunters enjoy pursuing deer in the fall and winter, as both a trophy animal and a source of meat. Leases for deer hunting can also provide an additional source of income for some landowners and farmers.

On the other hand, deer can also be an unpopular animal with folks. Increasing deer populations, along with the increasing miles and speeds driven by people overall, can lead to more vehicle/deer collisions, which no one enjoys. Deer can also be a problem for farmers, in that deer can cause damage to various crops. In some localized situations, the damage can be severe enough to be unacceptable.

What can a farmer or landowner do to help decrease the amount of crop damage that can occur? The answer is to encourage or, in some situations, even require deer hunters that you allow on your property, to harvest female deer. While most hunters would like to kill a buck with large antlers, this doesn’t do anything to reduce future deer population increases. This is because deer are polygamous in their reproduction. Removing a buck will only reduce the population by one, and won’t affect next year’s fawn production at all. Removing a doe will not only remove that deer from the population, but will generally prevent 2 or 3 fawns from being born the next spring, as yearling whitetails usually have one fawn, while adults generally have twins and even triplets.

Kansas deer hunting regulations allow only one buck per permit, but a number of antlerless deer permits may be purchased by an individual. Therefore, a farmer or landowner has the opportunity to convince hunters to take female deer in order to have access to shoot a buck, either in the current deer hunting season, or for future access for buck hunting. For landowners that also hunt deer, when harvesting for meat and given a choice between a doe and a buck with less than “trophy” antlers, remember that taking the doe will also help decrease crop damage next year.

If you would like information on improving wildlife habitat or current financial assistance programs that may help you with wildlife habitat or other farm conservation issues, please contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office or conservation district office located at your local county USDA Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at offices.usda.gov). More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.