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Discussion Starter #1
I wan't to start off by saying..this thread is intended to make us stop and think...not start another needless argument.

I spend a lot of time in the mountains year round. One thing that stands out to me over and over is...How hard it must be to manage our wildlife. Especially considering the amount of land PA has, plus the sheer numbers of hunters, and our diverse habitat.
Recently i was out scouting for deer in a Dmap designated area...I saw very little deer sign on the mt i was on..very very few tracks in the snow. First impression would have me thinking what the heck? why have DMAP tags for a area that obviously has a low deer population.
But one must consider...first of all this was one poor habitat for deer...mostly all laurel...very little browse of any significance. What i am seeing now is the herd that must overwinter here..How many deer can this area really support? Now i'm no biologist but i do have a bit of knowledge as to how much animals will eat, having been raised around farm animals. I could be wrong but my best guess would be a normal sized deer would need somewhere around 11/2 tons or a little better of food per year. And deer don't just eat any old thing like some people believe but have preferred foods.If there be any Biologist or PGC people that know this figure i'd be interested in knowing it...But if my educated guess is anywhere close and just assuming a overwintering herd of say 15 deer per square mile..folks that is 22.5 tons of food per SQUARE MILE!! that forest must produce..JUST TO FEED THE DEER!!.... I hope somebody with some knowledge chimes in here...But this is something to consider next time you walk through your favorite hunting area.
 

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An average deer needs between 3-5 lbs of browse a day during the winter.Good luck finding that for a herd of 20+ deer in many places.You don't add more deer to overbrowsed habitat just like farmer wouldn't add more cattle to an overgrazed pasture without feeding them hay and grain.

The next time you're out there,look at what they are eating,If they're eating the non-prefered species like beech and laurel,you have too many deer,regardless of how many are there.

Also take notice of where you're finding tracks.We got a foot of snow yesterday.Within a few days,the deer will start moving into the lower elevations,even though a foot of snow is no big deal.When we get heavy snow falls during the winter,the deer move off the ridges and into the valleys.That's why most of the cuts on the ridgtops do much better.Also,since the deer concentrate in the lower areas,those areas need to have better habitat.

Good thread.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
good points...and yea...that's a lot of food just to feed the deer...not counting needing some forest regeneration so we can have a forest in the future. thanks for the info..guess i wasn't to far off after all.
I am sometimes totally amazed at how much our PA forest support. I stand on top of a mt and just look out over all the mts, and all the trees,All the vegetation, and all the wildlife. I scoop up some soil in my hand and think...This dirt supports all this life!..Wow to me it's mind boggling...And Priceless.
 

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Also remember,the harder the winter,the more they depend on browse.All that browse on the ridgtops won't do them any good either because all the deer will be down low.In mountaneous terrain,there has to be suitable habitat down low to support more deer than usual.A couple bad winters in a row can wipe that overwinter browse out.Whemn we have mild winters,the deer can spread out and use more of the available habitat.
 

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One gauge I use is -how much of the square mile is wall to wall trees. How much is open. When's the last time the square mile was timbered.
Some square miles because of habitat and less hunters will hold more deer.
Some hunters will judge an area on less than a square mile. Hold to the same places year in and out, and wonder why an area has less deer. If X number of deer get harvested in or near the honey hole, and the wall to wall trees are just getting older, there are good reasons a herd gets smaller.
Any hunter who saw forty deer in one small area, it's good for only a time. But biologically he saw too many deer. The herd would eventually crash by harvesting excess deer, die off when disease hit or by starvation. Excess deer is no reward that can last.

I always appreciated finding a honey hole. But I knew it wouldn't last so I also kept looking for others, or as best I could find.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Another good point to consider dce...Although we may have a overwinter herd of 15 deer per sq mi...not all of that sq mi can be utilized as deer food...so what we have now is all this deer food must come off of a smaller area. Take for example the state forest area i mentioned above..Vast areas of laurel are virtually worthless to overwintering deer. So what little browse there is there..is going to be hammered by deer. Things to consider as we walk through our favorite spots.
 

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What makes the 5# a day figure even harder to comprehend is the volume of 5# of browse. It's literally about a hefty trash bag full to reach that 5#. I give this challenge to anyone who wants to get in this argument with me. Go ahead and take a bag for a walk and see how long it takes you to get it to 5 #in those woods. It will change your perspective pretty quick.. and make you [censored] glad you ain't a deer. I took a browse survey and pellet count class thru Penn State Extension a few years back near Fur Fin Feather TP on some land TNC managages for the PGC. Several class groups indepentantly came up with the same answers for what the forest could support for deer. It was about 1/2 to 1/4 of a deer per square mile. Now you can see why they have DMAP even in those areas. The forest can't support even 1 deer per square mile yet folks complain they don't see herds of deer like the good old days but can see 300 yds thru the woods. Imagine that....

Yet the PGC,DCNR, and anyone else in the alphabet soup groups gets accused of killing all the deer.. What a crock and a total misunderstanding on the hunters end. To add insult to injury; with overlapping enviromental regulations and low timber values it is not practical in many cases to cut forest that could/should be cut to jump start the regen process making this whole thing drag indefinitely.

TNC has been working alot with RX fire and exclusion cages in these areas trying to get the regen ball rolling so some positve changes are made but as the OP pointed out there is a lot of ground to manage and only so much money and manpower to do it with. Not an easy or small task by any means.

Some of the Marcellus money the state will earn will go back into habitat improvement but it does take manpower and not every habitat improvement type can be done year round adding another level of challenge to management.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
oh i like anyone else would love to see a lot of deer in areas like i mentioned above..But i'm also smart enough to see it just simply can't support many without having negative effects on both the deer and the forest...not to mention other wildlife.
Ive pondered a few times even commented on this forum how it baffles me why have DMAP tags in these areas.? But after spending some time scouting hiking observing i came to the conclusion....simply put...It just simply cannot support a large overwintering herd...I'm going to spend a bit more time there this winter but as of now i really can't see it supporting even close to the 15 deer per square mile we keep using as a reference. On the plus side for those willing to put some time and effort into it...It is an area that could produce some nice buck...plenty of thick laurel to elude hunters.
 

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There is a lot more nice buck than you think in heavy laurelled state forest. shhhh keep it down.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Blackbruin...I for one like hunting those areas...i'll sit for a couple day's in areas like that, even if i'm not seeing many deer..because it's home to a few nice buck.

On the flip side of this discussion i also hunted scouted a SF this year that is a very healthy forest in all aspects..Having a very diverse understory with trees in all stages of growth from seedlings to mature..It also has more deer than the area discussed above. It also was NOT a DMAP area....i'd say the dcnr is well aware that the forest is doing ok there...no need for a DMAP...for now.
 

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Its hard to hunt, yes, but the rewards are well worth it. More work than most are willing to do. When your hunting buck i would rather see 1 dandy than 40 doe in farm country
 
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