Options for Deer Management on High Fenced Properties

Submitted Question: Managed Deer Hunting Using a High Fence

“We own 850 acres that we use for whitetail deer hunting and a cattle grazing. The property has been deer hunted ever since there were deer, which was probably about 45-40 years ago. We have taken some good bucks over the years, but they are few and far between. It’s not a problem seeing deer, but most of the bucks are young and hunting pressure around our property is fairly high (most adjacent properties are smaller). We want to high fence the land we own in order to better manage the deer population. We are interested in buying some bucks to bring in and release to improve the genetics of the deer herd.

Would releasing some whitetail bucks on the property be a good idea and will we see results? What should we do in terms of harvest and the existing deer deer population? We are not 100% that we will bring deer in because we are not sure of the results. Thanks for any response.”

Options for Managing Deer, Releasing Bucks in a High Fence Property

Many land owners decide to high fence because they want to produce better bucks on their properties. As in your case, a common factor in most cases is the over-harvest of young and middle-aged bucks, those that never have a chance to reach their full antler potential. A high fence will allow you more management and achieve your goal of better deer hunting if it does nothing more than let you control buck harvest. Limiting the bucks shot to those 5.5 years of age or older will guarantee that the harvest of older, better-antlered bucks on your property will increase.

Also, once the fence is constructed you will need to pay close attention to the deer herd, particularly to the density and total population size. If too many deer are allowed to remain on the property then the quantity will increase but the quality will suffer, without a doubt. As far as bringing in some new bucks with “better” genes there are a couple of ways to go here.

Deer Hunting and Management

Options for Bringing In Big Bucks

1. Remove as much of the native whitetail deer herd as possible, which will be difficult. If you can achieve a 75 percent deer harvest during a single hunting season you’ll be very lucky. Bring in breeder bucks and does afterwords. For a property of 850 acres, I would suggest a minimum of 12-15 bucks, if you can handle the costs. If you can swing bringing in 1.5-2 times the number of bucks this would be ideal. This is the most expensive approach, and will shoot a hole in the herd for a while, but will be best if you want bucks the largest antlers possible. If you want some nice bucks but are also cost sensitive then consider the next option, but understand that it will cost in terms of time.

2. Shoot off as many bucks as possible this coming season (2015), leaving native does. Again, it would be ideal to remove them all, but this will not happen on a couple hundred acres, much less 800+ acres. Focus buck harvest on the lower 3/4 of the herd and leave only those with the best antlers by age class. The reason I suggest this is because every time you fire a shot on the property the deer get a little more cautious, so best to concentrate on the bucks you really know you want to remove first. That said, any buck less than exceptional is probably a candidate for removal if you are in interested in producing big antlers.

Bring in only (or primarily) bucks early the following year (2016). Allow the better bucks to breed the native does in the fall. During the 2017 season, remove as many does as possible during the deer hunting season, leaving the fawns. This will ensure that most deer have at least 50% “improved” genetics. All bucks will be 100 percent and all fawns 50 percent, so subsequent breeding between these classes will help concentrate these and their physical expression in bucks through better antlers.
High Fence Deer Hunting

These two options would be reasonable ways to achieve your deer management and hunting goals. The most important factor in both cases will be harvest. It will take time and it will be difficult attempting to achieve a very high deer harvest. However, it’s critical in either case. Bringing in some big bucks and simply throwing them on a high fenced property will not make a difference. Sure, they will be good, but research has found that in “normal” deer herds most bucks only sire one fawn each year that is recruited into the population. This means your “good bucks” sire a fawn each year, but the numerous other bucks will also sire one, each.

In either option offered above, removing as many native bucks will give the best maximum assurance that your purchased bucks do the bulk of the breeding. If this is not the case, then the good stuff gets watered down, kind of like pouring a bottle of premium liquor into a 55 gallon drum of water.

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