The Importance of Harvest Records
Managing any animal species is not easy, but when you are trying to manage a wild animal it is immensely harder. When managing for White-tail deer you often hear about 'Harvest Records'. There is no substitute for the valuable information that can be ascertained from a deer after harvest.
Three main types of information collected are age, weight, and antler measurements. Age of a deer is the most critical and all other data is meaningless if it can't be related back to the deer's age. Age is normally collected by the tooth wear and eruption method, and is crucial to determining the quality and status of your herd. On bucks, you can compare the age to the antler development and determine if you are harvesting the proper deer. The bucks start really producing their best antlers at age five. So by aging the deer you will know if your harvest was a quality management decision. By aging doe you can determine if you are over harvesting. If a large portion of your random doe harvest is 2.5 or under, you need to reassess your harvest.
Body weights are also commonly collected and can give an indication of herd health when compared to prior years. If body weights drop drastically it could be an indication of parasites, range degradation, or something else that you need to address. When collecting body weights always collect them with the animal field dressed, this ensures consistency among the data. The live weights of a deer can vary greatly; small things like if the deer has eaten recently will change your data.
Antler measurements are also essential; they can be as simple as a few standardized measurements or as complex as a Boone and Crocket score. Collecting antler measurements from each buck
harvested will allow you to build a data base that illustrates the potential of the property, and if the deer you harvested fits into that criteria. This information is crucial to set harvest recommendations in future years. You need to know this information so you know where a deer should be on average for its age to determine if it is a "Management" buck or a good up and coming deer that is young.
Another important piece of information that can be collected is doe lactation rate. Determining lactation rates simply means checking each harvested doe for the presence of milk in her udder. The percentage of harvested does that were lactating provides additional information about the productivity of the deer herd and gives some indication of reproductive success and survival of fawns. This can be used to back up the survey data you collected for your fawn crop. And lastly a good thing to monitor on each deer is the overall body condition. Fat over the back straps and around the base of the tail, as well as in the body cavity, are a good indication of the health of that deer. Each deer harvested can be checked and placed into one of three categories Good, Fair, and Poor.
As mentioned above, managing a wild animal is extremely difficult. You need to utilize every opportunity to collect as much data as possible. By collecting data and tracking the information you can establish a trend of what is happening on your property. This information will provide an insight to the success of your management that otherwise would be unattainable.
If you would like to contact your local biologist, see our website at http:// www.tpwd.state.tx.us/wildlifebiologist.