Keeping Harvest Records
Keeping records of the deer you harvest on your property is a vital part of sound management practices. Having proof of the time and money you spend managing the herd and growing bigger bucks will not only be rewarding from a personal standpoint, but it’s also a very helpful document to have if you ever wish to sell the land. Much like a creating a cooperative among neighbors, recording and obtaining data will take some time - most likely it’ll be a few years before you’re able to see results.
Starting a record-keeping program is simple. Like almost every aspect of deer hunting, all you need to do is exude a little patience. Make an effort to keep a journal that records the date and sex of every deer harvested, as well as biological data on age, weight, antler development and productivity.
Remove the mandible (lower jaw bone) and properly label it with the aforementioned information. Obtain a chart on aging techniques for the most accurate results. The recorded data, along with the jawbones, should then be turned over to a biologist at the end of each season for further analysis. Over time, you’ll be able pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of the property and overall herd.
If you have a base knowledge of how to score antlers, it wouldn’t hurt to include an approximation. The Boone & Crockett scoring system is a great document to have on hand. This way you have hard facts to relate to when studying the progress of antler growth among bucks taken off the property. Set high standards, only take bucks 3 ½ years old at the youngest, but expect younger, smaller ones to be killed as well, especially if you host kids or inexperienced hunters. Accidents happen.
“Knowledge of trends in annual harvests and biological condition, along with data from parasite burdens, spotlight counts and browse utilization surveys provide biologists and land managers with a sound basis for future harvest recommendations,” said Greg Yarrow, a professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University. “This approach will assure maintenance of quality habitats and a healthy well-managed deer herd.”