Landowners can manage deer herd

William N. Grafton
Wildlife Specialist
WVU Extension Service
December 1999

How do you manage the deer herd on your property when the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) regulates the number of deer that can be killed during various hunting seasons? You and your neighbors may also have different goals on the number of deer wanted and the ratio of bucks to does. Farmers have the option of requesting damage permits, but many view this unfavorably.

There are positive things you can do. First, decide what are your goals?

Remember: Buck hunting doesn't reduce deer populations! Landowners are responsible for setting goals and allowing access by hunters (family, friends, or responsible hunters) who will shoot those does or bucks necessary for you to reach your goals. This will work best if adjacent landowners work together.

Landowners do have many options.

  1. Permit one hunter for each 20 to 25 acres; hunters can be assigned to designated areas with roads, ridges, and creeks as boundaries.
  2. Accept only hunters who have proof of passing a hunter safety course.
  3. Set up a target and have potential hunters prove their marksmanship.
  4. If you have safety concerns, permit only archery, muzzleloader, shotguns, and pistols, but not rifles.

The following guide has been agreed to by the DNR and West Virginia University Extension Service.

Deer Harvest Guide

If the number of bucks harvested
on your land is
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20

And you want your deer herd to:

Then harvest this many antlerless deer:

Increase rapidly ………………..

NONE

Increase slowly ……………….. 1 3 5 6 8 10 11 13 14 16
Maintain present level ………... 2 5 7 10 12 15 17 19 22 24
Decrease slowly ……………….   6 8 11 14 17 20 22 25 28
Decrease rapidly ………………. 4 7 10 13 16 19 23 26 29 32

Following this guide will keep the deer population at 30 to 40 deer per square mile (640 acres). If you prefer a smaller deer herd, you will need to harvest more doe deer. Many foresters, gardeners, and farmers prefer 20 deer per square mile. Landowners who want maximum deer hunting opportunities will kill fewer doe.

It is important to remember that on property with above 40 deer per square mile, the habitat for most wildlife is degraded, plants cannot reproduce, food is scarce, shelter is destroyed, and deer health is reduced.

Three deer fact sheets were recently published jointly by the WV-DNR and WVU Extension Service and are available from local offices of these agencies. The fact sheets are:

Fundamentals of Deer Harvest Management - #806
Deer Control in Home Gardens - #808
An Integrated Approach to Deer Damage Control - #809