Managing wildlife populations is a daunting task that requires an arsenal of tools available to wildlife biologists. State agencies employ biologists to balance a healthy dynamic of wildlife with the habitat to support it. Biologists rely on resources that range from equations that monitor winter severity to deer mortality data provided by GPS collars, but most importantly, they rely on hunters. While you might not realize it, if you purchase a hunting license, you play a critical role in deer management.
Bowhunters in particular provide valuable information to biologists. Archery seasons are significantly longer than other hunting seasons, which means bowhunters have more opportunity to log hours. Hunting pressure is low, so bowhunters can observe undisturbed wildlife behavior. State agencies rely on anecdotal observations from bowhunters to better understand the experience and satisfaction folks have when they head to the woods. In Wisconsin, for example, bowhunters are prompted to disclose information including number of hours hunted, number of deer seen, and a rating score of the day’s weather conditions whenever they’re registering a deer. When a bowhunter reports more deer seen, biologists can better understand deer densities in the specific management zone where the hunter was located.
Wisconsin, in addition to a few other states, has adopted programs for bowhunters to collaborate directly with Department of Natural Resources staff to review deer population trends and provide suggestions for antlerless tag allotment. In Wisconsin, they form committees known as County Deer Advisory Councils (CDACs). According to Eric Canania, the Wisconsin DNR’s Southern District deer biologist, CDACs are a great opportunity for bowhunters who want to go the extra mile to have a direct impact on population goals, forest health, and much more.
Some states offer surveys to bowhunters, which are another great way to provide feedback. If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in a survey, give as much detail as you can. Wildlife biologists rely on participation from hunters to shape season structure and tag allotment and make additional changes that impact your hunting opportunities and experiences.
In some places there are special bowhunting opportunities, especially in urban areas where firearms can’t be used safely but deer numbers are above objective. Taylor Chamberlin lives outside Washington, D.C., where deer numbers are too high. Some estimates surpass 400 deer per square mile, which poses countless problems for deer-vehicle accidents and homeowners who want to keep their landscaped yards manicured. As a result, Chamberlin can take advantage of extended season dates that translate to an endless supply of delicious protein.
Opportunities like the urban hunts Chamberlin enjoys in D.C. exist in many states that whitetails call home. Be it in a county park or an entire management unit, such opportunities will help you spend more time in a tree and less time daydreaming of next year’s opener. Contact your local state agency to learn more about special hunting opportunities near you.
Never underestimate the value that engaged hunters provide to wildlife professionals. State agencies rely on participation from their stakeholders, so seek opportunities to share feedback and take a proactive stance on deer management to ensure a healthy future for your favorite pastime for years to come.