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Keywords:

  • harvest rates;
  • Odocoileus virginianus;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • spatio-temporal variation;
  • white-tailed deer

Abstract

The performance of 2 popular methods that use age-at-harvest data to estimate abundance of white-tailed deer is contingent on assumptions about variation in estimates of subadult (1.5 yr old) and adult (≥2.5 yr old) male harvest rates. Auxiliary data (e.g., estimates of survival or harvest rates from radiocollared animals) can be used to relax some assumptions, but unless these population parameters exhibit limited temporal or spatial variation, these auxiliary data may not improve accuracy. Unfortunately maintaining sufficient sample sizes of radiocollared deer for parameter estimation in every wildlife management unit (WMU) is not feasible for most state agencies. We monitored the fates of 397 subadult and 225 adult male white-tailed deer across 4 WMUs from 2002 to 2008 using radio telemetry. We investigated spatial and temporal variation in harvest rates and investigated covariates related to the patterns observed. We found that most variation in harvest rates was explained spatially and that adult harvest rates (0.36–0.69) were more variable among study areas than subadult harvest rates (0.26–0.42). We found that hunter effort during the archery and firearms season best explained variation in harvest rates of adult males among WMUs, whereas hunter effort during only the firearms season best explained harvest rates for subadult males. From a population estimation perspective, it is advantageous that most variation was spatial and explained by a readily obtained covariate (hunter effort). However, harvest rates may vary if hunting regulations or hunter behavior change, requiring additional field studies to obtain accurate estimates of harvest rates. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.