By Larry Weishuhn
“What’s the most important thing wildlife managers do when it comes to whitetail deer and habitat?” I repeated the asked question, then continued. “The answer is neither simple nor quick. Habitat is paramount. It refers to food, water and cover for resting and escape. If we provide the essential of food, managing for quality and quantity at the worst of times, deer and other animals will flourish, as will the plant community. Good habit for deer means good habitat for game and song birds, birds of prey, rabbits, squirrel, rats and mice as well as insects because of variety of vegetation present on the property.”
The old statement, “Build it and they will come!” holds true for whitetail deer and other wild species, large and small when referring to habitat.
“With whitetail deer, in particular, an extremely important consideration is producing and raising fawns to maturity. If one or more years we have low fawn survival rates, we put every deer into the population. A ten percent fawn survival rate means 100 does produce 10 fawns which survive. This means in five years, taking into consideration half the fawns are does and half are bucks, and natural mortality, there may not be any five-year old bucks, five years from now.
‘If we want to have a large number of five-year old bucks in the future, we have to do what we can to create at least a fawn survival rate forty percent this spring. That means providing sufficient forage for the does to carry her fawns to birth, then producing sufficient milk for those small fawns until they start foraging on their own. Ground vegetation plays into this not only because of food, but also of predators. When there is no or little ground cover, fawn predation increases dramatically. So not only is ground cover important for deer and other species to eat, it is necessary for escape cover.”
“If you are a deer hunter interested in hunting older aged deer, you must do so where they exist. One of the first questions I ask queries what fawn survival rates were seven years ago to the present. That will give me a better idea regarding presence of mature bucks within the herd.
“It comes down to fawn production and making certain habitat is in excellent condition throughout a deer’s life. If that’s the case all wildlife present along with the plants will flourish. That should certainly be one of our long-term goals.”