This respected group holds an annual conference at which biologists and researchers present their latest findings on whitetail biology and management. The 2016 meetings just wrapped in Charlotte, NC. I followed Tweets from the conference #SEDSG. Some of the most interesting new science:
Elizabeth Cooney @UGAWarnell studied fawning sites and found that does often choose igloo-like domes of vines/shrubs in which to drop and hide their young. (I found that fascinating.)
Rebecca Shuman @UGAWarnell reported that fawns are at most risk during their first week of life. In a study, 51 of 70 fawns perished, half of those in the first 7 days of life.
Of the 51 fawn deaths, 45 were killed by predators, mostly coyotes. Bobcats and black bears killed a few.
Newborn fawns have it tough, but… Researchers said that once a fawn reaches about 45 days old, they tend to be safe from predation.
More good news: Coyote predation of mature does in South Carolina is “not frequent enough to be a problem,” said John Kilgo of Southern Research/Forest Service, referencing an adult doe survival study. This is a positive finding, because coyotes are a particularly big problem in South Carolina.
Dr. Andy Little @UGAWarnell: Bucks reduce movement and acreage used both day and night in response to hunting pressure. (Noteworthy here is that pressured bucks move less at night than we once thought; most hunters believe that when it gets dark, bucks get up and roam freely, but apparently that is not always the case.)
Researchers @TAMU-Kingsville found that buck rut activity (and weight loss from chasing/breeding) peaks at 5.5 years old. Their chart shows a marked increase in rut activity when a buck turns 4.5.
Abe Woodard of Florida’s Deseret Ranch reported that if you kill bucks by antler size and not age, you kill the best bucks too early.
Study by Conner Burke @NCState found that landowners are 2.3 times more likely to let you hunt if they’ve owned the land for 30 years or more.
Daniel Crawford @UGAWarnell: 79% of the deer activity in south Florida occurs during the day as the animals try to avoid the major nocturnal predator, the panther!
An 8-year study reaffirmed that “culling” in an attempt to improve overall antler quality in a herd is a waste of time. (That doesn’t mean you should not shoot the odd 3.5-year-old buck with a funky/ stunted rack, you should.)
A study of GPS-collared animals showed this graph of daytime deer movement in response to heavy weekend hunting pressure. Weekdays are best for hunting, especially Thursday and Friday!
Auburn University researchers say that when managing land, increasing the amount of edge cover and decreasing the average size of food plots/feed patches may help fawns survive. The more you fragment/diversify the habitat and increase cover, the better the conditions for fawning.
The best news of all out of the conference: 78% of the American public supports deer hunting. Strong opposition to hunting has been declining in recent years.
Tweets and photo credits: Quality Deer Management Association, Lindsay Thomas, Jr., Brian Grossman