There really is little down time on properties that are interested in white-tailed deer management. As soon as one whitetail hunting season is over another year begins in preparation for the next. One of the most important deer management practices is harvest (aka population control), which takes place in the fall, but almost every other activity takes place during another time of the year. Most work with regards to deer habitat improvement, food plots, supplemental water and other projects take place at some time outside of the standard deer hunting season.
Summertime Deer Management Practices
Deer management activities will vary somewhat by month depending on the part of the US where your property is located, but the generalizations below will cover much of the whitetail’s range. Though it is always best to accomplish as much of the habitat work as possible during the cooler months, such as post-season, some activities can only accomplished when temperatures rise:
- June – Continue to develop summer food plots and or protein feeders for supplemental forage. This will increase antler growth and help fawn production. Advertise deer lease openings to get open spots filled well before hunting season starts. If rains continue in to the heat, spot fertilize browse plants for increased deer nutrition.
- July – It’s never to early to start building, repairing and placing out stands. Many hunters forget to check these items in the off season, only to remember they are not in great shape come hunting season. Also tune up hunting vehicles and maintain roadways for property access. Get ready for deer surveys, which will be just around the corner.
- August – Maintain supplemental feeding of pellets into the hottest time of the year. Bucks will be wrapping up antler growth, but does will be nursing fawns that are much larger now, but food will be scarce. Start planning winter food plots for your area. Begin conducting deer surveys, which may include daylight incidental deer observations of deer, spotlight surveys, stand counts and deer surveys using trail cameras.
Habitat for Deer Management
The key to deer management is habitat and the size of the deer population. To understand how certain factors can limit white-tailed deer population on a property, it is important to understand the concept of carrying capacity. Basically, the carrying capacity of a whitetail range refers to the maximum number of deer the habitat can support. If the size of the whitetail herd is too close to carrying capacity, the size of the deer herd will rise during favorable years (high rainfall) and decline during poor ones (low rainfall).
Many managers want the maximum number of animals the land can support, but this is not the best good practice. A deer management program should try to achieve optimum carrying capacity, which means finding and maintaining a deer population number at which the animals are in good condition and can meet their needs on a sustained basis. If the deer look skinny or their coats look in disarray during the summer, the deer are probably not be in good condition. If the brush and low-growing trees show more than 50 percent of the branches have been browsed, the property is holding too many deer.
Food, water, cover and space are the habitat components that determine suitability for wildlife. Deer management practices should focus on keeping all of these at optimal levels for a whitetail population. Many times, manipulating the deer population itself helps to maintain food and cover. It takes good surveys to track the population from year to year, and Rome was not built in a day, so get started and you’ll have a good handle on what’s happening on the landscape in a couple of years.