PSU Deer Study

JTF:  As the Pointer Sisters lament in their version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town (don’t worry Duane, I inserted a link), another year has gone by.  This is the Deer-Forest blog’s fourth year.  Can you believe it!  I can’t believe I’ve been churning out posts for 4 years.  Let’s reminisce about the blog year that was…because we are old and that’s what old people do that at the end of the year.  So tell me Duane what posts stood out for you?

DRD: Well, I had 113 (might be 115 by the time we post this?) to choose from so it took a while. Plus, the older you get more time flies so some posts I thought were 2017 favorites were actually 2016 favorites! But before I divulge any of my top choices, I wanted to comment on the Deer Crew Diaries. We started this series for rather selfish reasons.  Two posts a week may not seem like a lot but trust me it is!  Those weekly updates sent to all those involved in the project (Penn State, Game Commission, and Bureau of Forestry) lightened the load and have turned out to be quite popular with our readers.  And it shows the not so fun side of research.  Let’s say it together – ENDLESS vehicle repairs!  

JTF:  You must be confused.  We are forward thinking here at the Deer Forest blog and those Diaries give our readers an all access pass to field research.  We would never use field crew weekly updates as fill in posts.  Geesh, Duane.  Don’t give away all our secrets!  I will admit those Diaries have given us inspiration for other posts and our hard working crews do a great job every season.  But let’s get back on topic.  

DRD: Ok, Ok! I’m going to start out on the serious side and invite readers to revisit Passing through Nature to Eternity. This post is a summary of harvest and survival rates from our research projects over the decades. Although I was intimately involved with all the research that went into these numbers, I had never put them all together in one place before. What is interesting is the variability, yet consistency, in deer harvest rates across Pennsylvania. Harvest rates (and hence, survival rates because hunting is the primary source of mortality for adult deer) are consistently higher in males than females. And the low harvest rates that we have observed so far in this study will explain my next blog post pick!

JTF:  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  While you marvel at the statistics of harvest rates, I marvel at the deer that create them!  One of my favorite posts from 2017 is Middle Aged…perhaps because I can relate more every day.  Doe 10772 was captured this year for the second time.  But there was a 6 YEAR span in between captures.  She knows firsthand about those low harvest rates.  That post is also an example of how the Deer Crew Diaries inspired a post!

DRD: That’s similar to my next story pick – Battle Scars. Here is a deer that we learned from local landowners was likely injured by a vehicle collision. When we study deer we are interested in summarizing information from as many deer as possible so that we can generalize about the population. As wildlife biologists it’s rarely about a single deer AND we rarely get to learn a whole lot about individual deer. Most of the time we collar them, follow their locations, and maybe learn when they die. That’s it.

So to get video of deer after they were captured is always exciting. Even better, with this deer we got a follow-up video (see He’s Back!!!) a year later showing little evidence of a limp and sporting a very nice symmetrical set of antlers! 

JTF:  Of course, we couldn’t get through a conversation about deer without mention of antlers (insert eye roll here).  Yes, it’s exciting to see “our” deer.  There are lots of deer out there but once they step into a Clover trap or under a rocket or drop net, our relationship begins and yes, they become special because they are known.  That’s why I love the What’s in a Name post.  Regardless of whether they are called Buck 12776 or Wisdom, my most favorite bird (BTW – she made it back to Midway Atoll for another breeding season at the ripe age of 67!), we feel a connection.  We are privileged to “know” their story.

DRD: Oops, I forgot about your antler aversion (I think you’ve written about that…)! But you’ll be pleased that my most favorite post from 2017 had nothing to do with antlers because it was the early muzzleloader season: Birds and Squirrels… and Sometimes Deer. Every once in a while a post writes itself, and for me this was one of those. I firmly believe there is more to hunting than hunting and I hope that came across in my story. And that more people enjoy the early muzzleloader season!

JTF:  That is one of my favorites posts too!  Being a biologist for the most popular game species in North America, I have been told countless hunting stories.  If I never hear another one, I will NOT be sad.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for successful hunters as evidenced by my Biology is Messy post but my most favorite “hunting” tales are those in which a deer is never mentioned.  It’s about rowdy sparrows and chattering squirrels.  About golden rays of sunlight and the rustle of leaves.  About forgetting your worries (if just for a little while) and remembering the beauty that surrounds us every day.

DRD: Agreed (but I like deer hunting stories!).

So readers, what was your favorite post from 2017?

-Duane and Jeannine

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