Get Outside and Measure the Deer Food Supply

Get Outside and Measure the Deer Food Supply

Looking for something to do outdoors this spring? Gotta shed some unwanted pounds put on overwinter? Or better yet, want to satisfy both and get a better handle on what’s happening with your deer population? Consider a browse impact survey.

A browse impact survey involves walking along evenly spaced lines or “transects” through your hunting land and stopping at intervals to evaluate the browse pressure on select deer forage species. This survey method is an additional tool to estimate overwintering deer densities and gives you an annual measurement of deer impact upon available browse. Basically, you are looking for indications that forage and browse (at different preference levels) are in short supply relative to deer density, like the severely "hedged" plant in the photo above. Even worse, that plant is beech, which is generally not a preferred deer forage - symbolizing in this instance something to the effect of "Houston, we have a problem!"

How are the results used by the pros? Typically, organizations, hunt clubs and landowners use habitat impact survey results to help them understand the present condition and relationship between the deer herd and its habitat. Understanding the make-up of your deer herd and its impact on the habitat is actually an essential component of any QDM program.

The results of browse impact surveys can help deer hunters determine if the deer population needs to be reduced, or habitat quality increased, based upon the ability of the forest to produce deer forage and browse as well as trees to replace those that will eventually die or be harvested. Next, managers can keep tabs on the quality and relative quantity of browse as its availability changes from year to year. Finally, managers can determine if regeneration of tree species is of sufficient quantity and of the desirable species to conduct timber harvests. 

To find out how to conduct a browse impact survey, check out our Free Downloads page for a how-to guide to this useful habitat monitoring method.

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by Matt Ross
on May 21, 2014