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Herd Balance
WeHuntSC.com - Intro to Game Management
We're continuing along in our blog series on game management. Having to research for these blog entries is helping me learn some things and forcing me to look at game management from various perspectives. We've talked about food plots and selective harvest already and in this entry we'll discuss "herd balance".
 

WeHuntSC.com - Herd Balance

The notion of herd balance is one that not all deer hunters consider. The term "herd balance" most commonly refers to the ratio of bucks to does in a given area, but it is also related to a deer's habitat. The overarching goal of herd balance is to have a quality deer herd. A quality deer herd means that the population of deer is in balance with the available forage and cover.  A balanced herd has deer that are healthy, well nourished, and the herd has a well-balanced ratio of bucks to does. A balanced herd will produce healthy fawns that survive winter and will also have an even distribution of deer age classes.

A significant number of hunters prefer to harvest antlered deer in comparison to antlerless deer, which leads to unbalanced sex ratios in the population. Dr. Dave Guynn, professor in the Department of Forestry, Clemson University and a member of the QDMA's Executive Board posted a great article on herd balance on QDMA's web site. In his article he asked the question "Why should we concern ourselves with maintaining a natural social balance in a managed deer herd? Because, to survive as long as they have, deer long ago developed social rules or mechanisms that would keep deer herds and their individual members fit and competitive. However, when harvest regulations allow hunters to deplete certain social classes (with deer, this is usually most or all bucks 1.5 years old or older) in an unscientific, haphazard manner, the herd's social mechanisms can become stressed". As hunters harvesting deer every year we should keep the concept of these social classes in mind. If we only harvest the largest bucks we see then we?re causing an imbalance in the herd that can have longer-term effects on the quality of deer in a given area.

WeHuntSC.com - Herd Balance

In his well written article Dr. Guynn also stated that 'In a balanced population, mature bucks will do most of the breeding. The presence of older bucks and their signposts may suppress the competitiveness and libido of younger bucks. Lower testosterone levels should result in decreased weight loss during the rut and allow young bucks to grow to greater size before they assume breeding duties." In the end of his article he noted "Once established, such socially balanced herds will have high rates of reproduction and fawn survival." I think we all want high rates of reproduction (bred by the big boys) and high rates of fawn survival. In order to help this process out we can take measures to ensure a balanced herd. The restoration of balance between males to females in the population, along with healthy habitats filled with high-value forage is a must for successful game management.  
 

WeHuntSC.com - Leslie Sims with a pic of the big buck she got in Pageland SC 2 weeks ago

If you're like me you don't hunt on extremely large tracks of land and it's easy to feel like your actions to improve herd balance may be futile. Since a deer herd will generally occupy a region larger than the area of land one hunts, it's a great idea to form a "cooperative". A "cooperative" is an agreement made by neighboring property owners to abide by game management practices. If agreed to and abided by it only takes a couple of seasons before the benefits will start being noticed. 
 
In this blog entry we've looked at the concept of herd balance as it relates to Game Management. Having a balanced herd is a critical part of effective game management. As we just witnessed this past week in Pageland, the size deer in South Carolina can grow to when hunters work together in a cooperative to practice game management can be amazing.
 
Information in this blog entry cited from:
 
Regards,
 
 
Clint
 



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