PSU Deer Study

Our field crews have done a great job catching deer this year given the mild weather.

The woods are rapidly turning green but there are still a few deer that fall for their tricks. And some that you don’t have to trick at all!


From the Northern Crew:

Dear deer people,

Week 9 stats:

  • 4 captures (2 recaptures)
  • 2 bucks (both adult)
  • 2 does (1 juvenile, 1 adult which received a VIT & associated radio collar)

We ear-tagged our 50th new deer in the Susquehannock! Our tackle tally is up to 72 deer including recaptures, & we have 15 VITs on-air [we hope that means as many as 30 fawns collared this spring]. We had a shortened week but this late in the season we aren’t complaining about 4 captures in 3 days.

As usual, we can always count on our feisty trap-happy buck to pay us a visit. We recaptured him for the 7th time in 6 weeks (for the record, he hasn’t gotten any easier to tackle) [despite moving the trapline twice!]. The juvenile doe was a recapture as well and has been caught in the same trap 3 weeks in a row now [time to move that trap!].

We didn’t have any success rocket-netting this week as far as catching deer. However, one of the crew members was treated to a pretty neat wildlife sighting when a bobcat came trotting through (probably chasing birds on the corn). Check out this video he took from up in the tree stand!

Perhaps you recall our trap-happy buck [collared during the previous trapping season in 2015] from earlier in the season, which we had on the trail cam before we even started trapping in January? Well, his collar sent a mortality signal this week along with his last-known location which was 5 miles from where we had been capturing him. His last-known location was on private property.

So after speaking with the landowner, we hiked in to investigate. Being within sight of a busy roadway, we thought for sure we would find a roadkill deer. But, to our bewilderment, all we turned up was the collar which was lying on the ground still intact with no signs of deer other than some small clumps of hair. As far as we can tell, the collar just fell off [it does happen on occasion that a deer will kick a collar off]. However, this seems unlikely given how many times we’ve captured him. For now, this will remain an unsolved mystery.

Next week is our final week of trapping! We are hoping to deploy our 2 remaining VITs along with the buck collar we just retrieved from the field.

Field Crew Leader
PGC Deer & Elk Section


From the Southern Crew:

Greetings all,

Deer trapping has come to an end for us in the Southern Study Area. A bittersweet moment indeed.

Trapping Season Stats:

  • 48 total captures
  • 39 were new deer
  • 9 were recaptures

Last week, we found out that we were only 4 captures away from beating the capture record in the South. Of course, this made us want to continue trapping, but our work hours would not allow it. Hearing that we were close to the record not only surprised us but made all the difficulties this season worth it.

Overall, we captured 29 new deer in Rothrock and 10 new deer in Bald Eagle. We were only able to successfully deploy 3 Vaginal Implant Transmitters (VITs).

Of the 5 adult does that we captured, we could not deploy VITs in 2 of them because the deer were too small. We deployed two regular buck collars and one regular doe collar. We caught at least three deer that we could not fit regular GPS collars on because their necks were too small. Duane had mentioned that this could be an indication of the quality of the habitat [which we will talk about more in posts to come].

We had 6 escapees this season, not including deer that escaped from our rocket nets. Since this was everyone on the crews’ first time capturing deer, there was a steep learning curve. We learned that trapping deer is truly an art and we were taught something new almost every day in the field. We are coming out of this season much more informed and confident with trapping techniques, the capture and handling of deer, data collection and the use of immobilization drugs. Many of us also gained experience with trailering, using tire chains, navigating the state forests, using chainsaws, team work, basic equipment maintenance, and First Aid/CPR.

This week, we caught a total of 7 deer (4 new deer, 3 recaptures) in our Clover traps. This included an adult doe and 3 button bucks. The adult doe was too small for a GPS collar.

Our rocket nets did not seem to be producing like they once were, but our Clover traps had picked up over the past few weeks. We sat at three rocket nets this week and had no luck whatsoever. We saw deer two of the three times, but nothing that would stay at the bait and cooperate. Even with perfect trapping conditions – absolutely no wind, no clouds, a bright moon lighting up the clear night sky and deer coming in fairly regularly… nothing!

Just because we are done with trapping does not mean that we are finished for the season. We’ve still need to remove all our equipment from the field, transport it to storage, and begin conducting the deer pellet collection [for DNA analysis and population density estimation].

Here’s to a tough but successful season! I am grateful for the struggles during the season for without many of them we would’ve never learned where we needed to improve. I am also grateful for the commitment and passion of my hard working crew. Thanks, guys!

Field Crew Leader
PGC Deer & Elk Section

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