Fish and Game researchers want to learn more about mule deer buck survival during hunting seasons, including how the season structure, and hunter access and habitat types affect buck survival. Biologists are using specially designed GPS collars and ear tags to help answer those questions, and collars are being placed on mule deer during winter that will remain on bucks through the upcoming hunting season.
Researchers hope that understanding buck survival will help biologists better manage deer hunting and avoid over-harvesting bucks, as well as meeting hunters’ desires for the age class of bucks and types of hunting seasons.
“Most mule deer hunters would like to see bigger bucks, more bucks, and would also like to go hunting every year,” said biologist Paul Atwood, who is leading the study. “Those things are pretty hard to juggle all at once. Wildlife managers have been creative in how they structured seasons to try and reach those goals, but there are many confounding factors that make it hard to decide what affect you will have if you change a season. We are hoping to address some of those.”
How much the timing and length of a hunting season affects buck survival is one question they would like to answer, but there are more. Such as, what are the effects of controlled hunts vs. general hunts, antler point restrictions, etc. on survival? What about road densities and motorized access into a hunting area, or the amount of conifer cover, or steepness of the terrain?
Incorporating adult buck collaring into traditional doe and fawn collaring
Fish and Game staff and volunteers trap and collar mule deer does and fawns each winter to monitor survival, and they’re adding a sample of mature bucks. They will measure the survival of mule deer bucks in various