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Montana Mule Deer Mismanagement

I would think that for the most part, until buck:doe ratios start dipping below that 10:100 threshold, does are getting bred.

I think what’s been happening particularly over the last few years is that with drought and nutritional stress, does are either not carrying to full term, having singles instead of doubles, having smaller/weaker fawns that don’t make it past the neonate period, or aren’t lactating well enough to maintain healthy/living fawns to weaning. And, the ones that are successful in one year or two years are then in a nutritional deficit such that the following year they won’t be successful. That happens anyway to some extent but is exacerbated in drought years. The Hamlin and Mackie study about mule deer in the breaks speaks to this. Couple that with everything else (buck hunting pressure, a bad winter, predation, etc.) over several years and this is what we see, and will see, until we get a few good years under our belts.
Do you think high elk #'s are exacerbating this? Logic makes me think it would. Regardless, there are serious issues with habitat (either drought related, grazing related, competition related or just natural senescence) to have fawn:doe ratios that low. It's hard to express how low those values are.
 
Do you think high elk #'s are exacerbating this? Logic makes me think it would. Regardless, there are serious issues with habitat (either drought related, grazing related, competition related or just natural senescence) to have fawn:doe ratios that low. It's hard to express how low those values are.
High elk numbers definitely play in to the story, everywhere elk and mule deer overlap. 410 is a special case though it seems, too, because the mule deer trend area is in the far NW corner of the district where for a while now, elk numbers haven’t been as high as in other areas. Overall elk numbers in 410 have been decreasing, so if the relationship was strong enough, that should give mule deer a boost. It’s probably part of the story but definitely not all of it.
 
High elk numbers definitely play in to the story, everywhere elk and mule deer overlap. 410 is a special case though it seems, too, because the mule deer trend area is in the far NW corner of the district where for a while now, elk numbers haven’t been as high as in other areas. Overall elk numbers in 410 have been decreasing, so if the relationship was strong enough, that should give mule deer a boost. It’s probably part of the story but definitely not all of it.
Where are the elk trend areas? Same place?
 
Where are the elk trend areas? Same place?
The biologist counts elk in the trend area while she flies the mule deer survey (this is typical statewide for bios; they note other species seen), but then when she flies elk she covers the whole district. Or all the “elk habitat” within the district, anyway. 2x/year for mule deer and every other year (recently every year) for elk.
 
The biologist counts elk in the trend area while she flies the mule deer survey (this is typical statewide for bios; they note other species seen), but then when she flies elk she covers the whole district. Or all the “elk habitat” within the district, anyway. 2x/year for mule deer and every other year (recently every year) for elk.
Is there a trend for elk in the "mule deer area"? I guess I didn't not anything that specific in anything I read
 
I’ve already had two friends come to me practically losing their shit about not being able to kill a muley doe on public this year. I tried to explain the reasoning, but I don’t think they were in the mood to be reasonable. Lol
I think we are going to find out that a very high percentage of those mule deer doe tags were filled on public in the past.
 
Is there a trend for elk in the "mule deer area"? I guess I didn't not anything that specific in anything I read
I’m pretty sure the elk counts in that trend area go as far back as they’ve been doing those surveys. Not something that would be in a season justification necessarily but would be in the survey reports. If you email and ask they’ll send you that info.
 
Someone explain to me how 23:100 spring fawn to doe is caused by hunting....
Maybe it is the why we as hunters are too efficient at selecting the best animals from the herd at young age so that instead of the best bucks doing the bulk of the breeding the runts for the herd are the most likely to spread the most genes. Maybe that runt buck is just a buck that was unlucky and born during a drought or after a tough winter. It could also be that that runt buck had a mother that just didn't have the genes to turn a plentiful food supply into milk and fat as efficiently as other does. If the latter is the case that runt buck is passing his poor genes on to his sons and daughters. Enough generations of this and you are going to have a deer herd that will no longer be able to handle adversity. I am no biologist, but I can say with confidence that I was to treat my cow herd the way we treat the mule deer herd the cow herd would be going backward in short order.
I few years back I had a neighbor that would constantly buy the cheapest bulls at the sale. His cow herd suffered because of it. You could identify with a high degree of accuracy his cows long before you could see a brand just by the shape. His children and grandchildren had to work hard to get that cow herd back to quality. We are doing the same with the deer herd.
 
Maybe it is the why we as hunters are too efficient at selecting the best animals from the herd at young age so that instead of the best bucks doing the bulk of the breeding the runts for the herd are the most likely to spread the most genes. Maybe that runt buck is just a buck that was unlucky and born during a drought or after a tough winter. It could also be that that runt buck had a mother that just didn't have the genes to turn a plentiful food supply into milk and fat as efficiently as other does. If the latter is the case that runt buck is passing his poor genes on to his sons and daughters. Enough generations of this and you are going to have a deer herd that will no longer be able to handle adversity. I am no biologist, but I can say with confidence that I was to treat my cow herd the way we treat the mule deer herd the cow herd would be going backward in short order.
I few years back I had a neighbor that would constantly buy the cheapest bulls at the sale. His cow herd suffered because of it. You could identify with a high degree of accuracy his cows long before you could see a brand just by the shape. His children and grandchildren had to work hard to get that cow herd back to quality. We are doing the same with the deer herd.

Last few years we’ve had quite a bit of ehd issues around. I know the die offs typically happen with whitetails but it also affects mule deer in other ways such as sterilization of bucks. You can usually tell this by looking at the buck because it will typically still have its velvet on its antlers. I wonder if it also sterilizes the does? Here’s an article out of Oregon on the causes of cactus bucks. https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/health_program/docs/Cactus_buck_Q_and_A.pdf
 
What is the acceptable doe-to-fawn and doe-to-buck ratios according to everyone? A little specific to the eastern MT guys here.. Additionally, what should the overall deer herd count be in hunters or (HT) opinions.. What kind of numbers would it take, that would be satisfactory in regions 4, 6, and 7? Considering an increasing population of resident hunters.. say just over the next 10-15 years. How can we find a balance between resident satisfaction, and accommodating non-resident hunters? How many mule deer would need to be added over the next 10 years to accomplish said satisfactory rate? Kinda going off Randy's last video.. but what would that look like to you guys who live out east?
 
What is the acceptable doe-to-fawn and doe-to-buck ratios according to everyone? A little specific to the eastern MT guys here.. Additionally, what should the overall deer herd count be in hunters or (HT) opinions.. What kind of numbers would it take, that would be satisfactory in regions 4, 6, and 7? Considering an increasing population of resident hunters.. say just over the next 10-15 years. How can we find a balance between resident satisfaction, and accommodating non-resident hunters? How many mule deer would need to be added over the next 10 years to accomplish said satisfactory rate? Kinda going off Randy's last video.. but what would that look like to you guys who live out east?

I mean mule deer counts are down over 50% from the ten year average. And the ten year average is lower than what the twenty year average is.
 
Your opinion apparently holds some weight if you were the reason BHA supported muzzleloader season. Your opinion is also the reason I will not be buying a ticket to this BHA raffle. I think you need to look at the pot calling the kettle black for people that are not willing to understand.
we get it. You dont like bha.
 
I mean mule deer counts are down over 50% from the ten year average. And the ten year average is lower than what the twenty year average is.
Okay.. I get that, but that's not what I'm asking. I'm curious if that number 20 years ago is sustainable in your eyes. How do you get it back then? And how do you sustain it for future? Or was it too over populated and then when disease strikes it kills or sterilized more deer because it was easier to carry? What would be the perfect carrying capacity for those regions I guess is my question...
 
All of the funds raised in the raffle go to FWP's mule deer management. I also suggest actually reading the post above, which answers your second point. Attacking volunteers and throwing shade on people in the ring achieves nothing here.
You'll accomplish nothing. But pat yourself on the back.
 
What is the acceptable doe-to-fawn and doe-to-buck ratios according to everyone? A little specific to the eastern MT guys here.. Additionally, what should the overall deer herd count be in hunters or (HT) opinions.. What kind of numbers would it take, that would be satisfactory in regions 4, 6, and 7? Considering an increasing population of resident hunters.. say just over the next 10-15 years. How can we find a balance between resident satisfaction, and accommodating non-resident hunters? How many mule deer would need to be added over the next 10 years to accomplish said satisfactory rate? Kinda going off Randy's last video.. but what would that look like to you guys who live out east?
As far as fawn:doe, there is a number you need for "replacement", ie a stable population. General research consensus is somewhere around 60:100 fawn:doe ratio. That number could be a little higher or lower depending on local conditions, but overall you need somewhere around 60:100.

As far as buck numbers go, most research suggests anything 10:100 (bucks:does) virtually every doe is bred Obviously, for some, higher buck to doe ratios are wanted socially, but biologically there is not a demonstrated needed through literature (yet, there could be research in the future that shows a benefit to higher buck to doe ratios).
 
As far as buck numbers go, most research suggests anything 10:100 (bucks:does) virtually every doe is bred Obviously, for some, higher buck to doe ratios are wanted socially, but biologically there is not a demonstrated needed through literature (yet, there could be research in the future that shows a benefit to higher buck to doe ratios).
one in ten may be able to get the job done, but I would bet money that there are negative consequences too the herd that we have yet to understand.
 
As far as fawn:doe, there is a number you need for "replacement", ie a stable population. General research consensus is somewhere around 60:100 fawn:doe ratio. That number could be a little higher or lower depending on local conditions, but overall you need somewhere around 60:100.

As far as buck numbers go, most research suggests anything 10:100 (bucks:does) virtually every doe is bred Obviously, for some, higher buck to doe ratios are wanted socially, but biologically there is not a demonstrated needed through literature (yet, there could be research in the future that shows a benefit to higher buck to doe ratios).
Montana’s AHM document for prairie breaks calls for 30-60 fawns:100 adults (note, not does) for their standard regulations. I would think that striving for a minimum 60 fawns:100 does or fawns as a recruitment rate is unrealistic and would imagine that doesn’t happen often.

10:100 bucks:does is the standard minimum but some literature and other pieces of info suggest that if you get too high in your buck:doe ratios you’ll see a decline in fawn recruitment, which would yield reduced populations over time. I don’t know the magic number but would think it changes a little every year anyway depending on conditions.

Edited to add that the sweet spot is something over that but maybe not more than what trophy units manage for?
 
Maybe it is the why we as hunters are too efficient at selecting the best animals from the herd at young age so that instead of the best bucks doing the bulk of the breeding the runts for the herd are the most likely to spread the most genes. Maybe that runt buck is just a buck that was unlucky and born during a drought or after a tough winter. It could also be that that runt buck had a mother that just didn't have the genes to turn a plentiful food supply into milk and fat as efficiently as other does. If the latter is the case that runt buck is passing his poor genes on to his sons and daughters. Enough generations of this and you are going to have a deer herd that will no longer be able to handle adversity. I am no biologist, but I can say with confidence that I was to treat my cow herd the way we treat the mule deer herd the cow herd would be going backward in short order.
I few years back I had a neighbor that would constantly buy the cheapest bulls at the sale. His cow herd suffered because of it. You could identify with a high degree of accuracy his cows long before you could see a brand just by the shape. His children and grandchildren had to work hard to get that cow herd back to quality. We are doing the same with the deer herd.
Ok, what we know about "runt bucks", at least from literature, is this. A buck born into poor maternal conditions prioritizes excess nutrients throughout his life into increasing body condition rather than bigger antlers. No, logically, any breeding this buck does would also pass those genetics on to his offspring.

Now, lets look at what genetic characteristics we could be creating a genetic bottleneck for with heavy hunting pressure. Could we be affecting antler size? I believe yes, potentially. However, given good quality habitat, you would expect there to be bucks that prioritize antler growth over body condition (given current research) so there should still be some out there. But, we don't know enough about mule deer genetics to be certain of that.

Could we be affecting fawn body condition by killing bucks....I think that is a really hard position to argue, but I'd be interested in a lit review to see if there is anything out there. I know there is research out there that identifies high buck to doe ratios has showing negative survival effects on fawns.

Edit: Post above points that out.
 

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