Tanner’s Take: Did I Over-Hunt This Stand?

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Here in Georgia, the 2013 season opens on Saturday.

This season marks the second year in a row I’ll get to truly hunt the entire season. Prior to becoming a QDMA employee, my hunting opportunities were severely limited due to work obligations. I would get the chance to hunt maybe one weekend a year, and some years went by without any opportunity to step foot in the woods.

So last year, presented with the ability to hunt the 23-acre property here at QDMA National Headquarters, I was determined to take full advantage of this new opportunity and hunt often.

Being on a small property combined with the fact I’m not the only one to hunt here, I set up just one stand location last year. It was my place to hunt at Headquarters, and it will continue to be may place to hunt here this year.

Over the past year, I’ve read or heard a few stories of how much hunting pressure can have an effect on your success. So as I started preparing for this season, I gave some thought to my hunting observations from last year, and it wasn’t hard to figure out that the amount I hunted last year had an impact. But I wanted to know exactly what the numbers looked like. So this week, I pulled out the log of observations I kept and put the data into a chart.

Date Hunted Fawns Observed Does Observed Bucks Observed Unidentified Deer Total Deer Observed Hours Hunted
Sept. 12 2 0 1 0 3 3
Sept. 17 1 0 0 0 1 3
Sept. 25 1 1 1 0 3 3
Sept. 27 1 1 0 0 2 3
Oct. 2 3 1 2 0 6 2.5
Oct. 9 2 0 0 0 2 2.5
Oct. 13 2 0 0 0 2 3
Oct. 15 3 2 0 3 8 2.5
Oct. 31 0 0 1 0 1 2.5
Nov. 6 0 0 0 1 1 2
Nov. 13 0 0 0 0 0 2
Nov. 15 0 0 2 0 2 2
Nov. 27 0 0 0 0 0 2
Dec. 6 0 0 3 0 3 2
Dec. 8 0 0 0 0 0 4
Totals: 15 5 10 4 34 39

 

I knew I had “hunted often” in 2012, but the chart showed me exactly how much. I hunted the same stand 15 times and observed 34 deer in a total of 39 hours (0.87 deer per hour hunted). In addition, fellow employees also had a couple hunts from my stand, and one even took a deer from it (I did not).

What really surprised me with this chart was something I didn’t realize at all last year. I didn’t see a single doe or fawn after October 15 when hunting this stand.

The easy deduction is that the stand was hunted too much. However, further examination shows another factor in play. The one deer taken from the stand last year was taken with a muzzleloader on October 19, the last day of primitive weapons week. Firearms season then opened on October 20. While I was hunting with family on another property that opening weekend of firearms season, other QDMA employees reported hearing several shots taken by neighboring properties.

Prior to that one muzzleloader shot and firearms season opening, I hunted 22.5 hours from my stand on QDMA’s property observing 27 deer (1.2 deer per hour hunted). After firearms season had opened, I hunted 16.5 hours only observing seven deer (0.42 deer per hour hunted).

So what did I learn from my observations last year that I’ll take into this season?

  • Perhaps I did hunt too much from this stand. I may need to back off some this year.
  • If I plan on taking does to put meat in the freezer, I don’t need to be selective early in the season. The opportunity to add a doe to the freezer may not be there come the latter half of the season. This observation also reminded me of an article QDMA’s Lindsay Thomas Jr. wrote last year titled, “Five Reasons to Take Does Early.”
  • Observations dropped drastically once gun season opened up, so bow season may present me with my best opportunities.
  • Collecting observation data is important. Had I not scribbled down my observations last year, I would not have been able to put that chart together and draw the conclusions I did. Now, I can go into this season with a better game plan.
  • Using hunter observations is also a great way to track fawn recruitment. At the end of this season, I’ll be able to compare the data from 2012 with data from 2013 to gauge the trend of recruitment.

QDMA’s official store, The Shed, offers two observation log books. One is an 8.5″ x 11″ spiral bound Deer Observation Log Book, complete with observation forms, instructions and helpful information on how this valuable information can guide management decisions. The second 4″ x 7″ spiral bound Personal Deer Observation Log Book. It’s small enough to fit in your pocket, yet it contains enough room to record observations for approximately 120 hunts.