The QDMA advocates sound deer management and approaches each management proposal on a case-by-case basis. When Delegate (Wendell) Beitzel introduced House Bill 990 to protect the majority of yearling bucks in Garrett County, we used the best available data to assess the issue.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ data showed the percentage of 1.5-year-old bucks in the antlered buck harvest in Garrett County approached and exceeded 70 percent during the past few years.
This percentage is well above the state’s average of 57 percent and nearly double the national average of 39 percent. In 2011-12 more than seven of 10 bucks harvested in Garrett County were only 1.5 years old. This is among the highest yearling buck harvest rate in the U.S., and protecting the majority of these yearling bucks would pay big dividends to our hunters and deer herd.
DNR harvest data also showed Garrett County hunters harvested 3.6 to 4.0 antlerless deer per square mile during the 2008-09 to 2011-12 hunting seasons. This harvest rate is higher than in West Virginia (2.7), Virginia (3.4) and New Jersey (3.6), and nearly double the Northeast average of 2.4 antlerless deer per square mile.
Thus our deer population could handle the additional pressure exerted on antlerless deer if the majority of yearling bucks were protected by HB 990.
Therefore, HB 990 would have been very positive for our deer herd and hunting opportunities.
Since the bill was introduced, the DNR has made additional information available. This data includes the 2012-13 antlerless harvest in Garrett County dropped 37 percent from 2011-12, and the DNR’s fawn recruitment rate index in Garrett County has plummeted 167 percent from 0.8 fawns per doe in 2000 to less than 0.3 fawns per doe in 2011!
This data strongly suggests the antlerless segment of our deer herd could not handle the additional harvest pressure if the majority of yearling bucks were protected, and more importantly, our deer herd has a significant fawn recruitment problem and is not recruiting a sufficient number of fawns to maintain our recent harvest levels.
Given this information, we are encouraging Delegate Beitzel to withdraw HB 990 and urging the DNR to assess the causes of our low fawn recruitment rate and large reduction in antlerless harvest during the 2012-13 hunting season.