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Science and Effects of Deer Hunting Pressure

Pressure from hunters will often send whitetails to thick, dense cover to avoid contact. (Terry Owens photo)
Pressure from hunters will often send whitetails to thick, dense cover to avoid contact. (Terry Owens photo)

How much hunting pressure does it take to change whitetail patterns and movement?

As long as we’ve hunted whitetail deer, questions have come up about the effects of hunting pressure on our quarry.

Does hunting activity push deer out of core areas? Do deer “go nocturnal” in response to hunting pressure? Do whitetails push deeper into heavy cover to remain unseen by human predators?

The answers depend on multiple factors.

It won’t come as a surprise that deer often respond to hunting pressure by altering their daily activity patterns. But it might surprise hunters that sometimes the opposite is true, and despite increased hunting pressure, whitetails don’t always respond by changing their movements.

Of course, there’s ample evidence – and not just the anecdotal variety offered by your buddies at deer camp – that deer are profoundly affected by increases in hunting pressure. A 1998 Florida study showed that the average distance of deer to the nearest road and the amount of nocturnal activity were greater during the hunting season than during times when hunting season was closed.

The same study reported that deer “avoided clear cuts, regenerating pine stands, and other open habitats and preferred the dense cover of swamps and mature forests.”

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STARTING SEP 17, 2018
STARTING SEP 17, 2018