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The Wildlife Conservation Branch congratulates James Welch and John Andrews, the winners of this years Big Buck/Most Does Contest on mandatory check station days.
Welch harvested a 10-pointer from the Quality Deer Management Area on opening day that scored 148 Boone and Crockett. He will receive one free deer processing from Seminole Deer Processing, $100 off a deer mount from Treebark Taxidermy and a basket with $100 of deer hunting merchandise.
There were three hunters who harvested three does on mandatory deer check station days. Andrews won the most does contest with a total cumulative weight of 201.4 pounds with his three does. He will receive a free deer processing from Daffins Deer Processing and a steak dinner for two from Lukes Pub.
We thank the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the local donors for supporting this years contest.
We have begun analyzing the data from this years check stations. Biological data was collected on 307 deer. An additional 37 hunters failed to bring their deer by the mandatory deer check stations. Losing data on 10 percent of the deer harvested impacts the quality of data and confidence we have in our analysis. Please help us spread the word and lets shoot for 100 percent compliance next season so no one loses hunting privileges.
The data also shows almost 75 percent of reproductively mature does and 80 percent of does 4.5 years and older produced offspring this year. This marks an increase in reproduction for the second season in a row. We also had an increase in average body weights. Both of these pieces of data indicate we remain close to carrying capacity, but approaching acceptable population levels and we likely had an increased density of fawns in the population.
One negative of increased reproduction is the potential for increased harvest of fawns by hunters, which was confirmed by our data. The recurring trend of hunters harvesting immature bucks is evident again this season. Of 171 bucks brought by the check station 70 were 1.5 years of age or younger and 19 of those were buck fawns.
Harvest of buck fawns, which are recorded as antlerless deer on a hunters harvest card as long as they do not have hard bone antlers exposed above the hairline, has resulted in several hunters harvesting three, and in a few cases, four bucks already this season. While this is not illegal, it does negatively impact the population and significantly reduces the number of bucks which would otherwise have a chance to mature and be available for harvest in future seasons.
We encourage hunters to let those younger bucks walk and harvest does instead. If you are unable to determine whether the animal you intend to harvest is a doe instead of a buck fawn, please refrain from pulling the trigger. That restraint would mean a lot to not only the overall quality of the deer herd, but to your fellow hunters as well.
If we are indeed approaching desired population levels, balancing doe to buck ratios is the next and most important step. While the doe-to-buck harvest ratio is well below desirable levels, we have started to see doe harvest increase over the past couple weeks and hope that trend continues throughout the rest of the season. Year-to-date harvest is just over 1,050 deer with 53 percent being does and 47 percent bucks compared to the same period last year when harvest was just over 925 deer with 56 percent being does and 44 percent bucks.