Have you ever had a deer wander right up to your stand? Maybe it’s luck, but it’s most likely the deer is motivated by food or procreation, the two main reasons deer move.
Unfortunately, as deer movement increases with the rut, they tend to cross roads more frequently and with less caution. Rut is the mating season for deer, and the deer hunting season is scheduled to overlap it. Bucks are most active during the rut. They have a slightly larger roaming range during this time so they can find does and maintain a diverse gene pool. Unfortunately during this three-month-long event, deer may roam into human developments, causing them harm. Hence the increase in deer-car collisions during the rut.
Extreme weather and drought can also cause deer to seek more supportive stomping grounds. Excellent native habitat is crucial for keeping deer healthy and fruitful. This habitat must be able to feed and house fawns, growing and adult bucks, and pregnant and nursing mothers. There are many important components that help to ensure the safety and health of the deer, with food being the key. Deer may feed on hundreds of species of plants throughout the year, depending on which are the most nutritious at the time. Many of the highly preferred native plants occur after soil disturbance, such as after a fire or winter plowing. Food plots, although not essential, are supplemental and can help bridge the seasonal nutrition gaps. For example, beans and peas are the best for fawns and nursing mothers as well as antler development. When food is scarce in late winter, grasses such as rye and oats mixed with clover keep the deer going until spring sprouts new vegetation. This information is important because deer move where the food is abundant and nutritious.
Timber management is another important factor in maintaining an agreeable habitat for deer. Prescribed fire and thinning are two techniques used to help maintain strong habitats. These are great ways to improve habitat conditions, increase nutrition and encourage new growth in spring. Thinning—the removal of small patches of undesirable trees and plants—allows sunlight to reach the ground. This encourages sprouts to come to the surface, and in turn provides a plentiful native habitat fit to sustain deer and other wildlife.
Our neighborhood–Del Webb on Lake Oconee–has a very high population of deer and there goes shrubs and flowers. Culling by harvesting is being considered but I don’t think it will do much good in the long run. We are surrounded by pine/hardwood forests and other neighborhoods with high deer populations. Are there any recommendations for deer population control? Thank you. John Eadie
Georgia DNR, Wildlife Resources Division
For dealing with overabundant deer populations, the best course of action is an initially-high level of harvest—followed by annual or biennial maintenance harvest. A one-time hunt or cull will not resolve the problem for the long term, as you will have annual reproduction and immigration. Additionally, consider using landscaping plants that are deer resistant (there aren’t many that are deer-proof) to minimize the impacts.
Are the gates (close to main roads )in the Oconee National Forest closed during deer hunting season? i.e. 1610, 1580 etc.