Ask The Biologist

How Many Does?

How Many Does?

By Bob Humphrey

Habitat is the biggest determiner of how many deer your land can hold.

QUESTION: How many does per acre should a west-central Alabama lease hold, and how do you count/identify the number of does per acre on your property?

ANSWER: We often get questions that apply to a specific region, state or locality, and the answer sometimes has much broader application. That is the case with your question.

To a great extent, the number of does per acre a particular piece of ground can hold depends less on location and more on habitat quality. A patch of ground with poor soil, lack of water, sparse bedding cover and little food might only support a fraction of the deer you could hold on an adjacent or nearby parcel.

To get a relative scale you might talk to your neighbors, or the local biologist to see what the aver-age is in your county. I’m more familiar with northern deer herds, but on good habitat you could probably get away with between 30 and 40 deer per square mile. If my math is right, that’s about one deer for every 16 acres. Any more than that, and you’d better be offering plenty of food to fill all those mouths.

As for determining how many does you already have, it’s not that easy, or necessary. The important thing is to determine whether you have too many, not enough or just the right number.

Conducting a browse survey is one way to tell if you have too many deer. A biologist can tell pretty quickly by searching for preferred food plant species, measuring their relative abundance and the degree to which they’re being browsed.

If they the browse plants are being heavily broomed or are absent, you might have a problem. An-other way is to measure antler beam diameter of yearling bucks. If the numbers fall within the expected average for your area, you and your deer should be in good shape. If they’re smaller, the deer are lacking something, which is a good indication there are too many.

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