Hopefully you will get a chance to harvest a few deer this year. If you’re lucky you may even get a crack at that trophy buck you have trail camera pictures of. As hunters, we usually plan out many things and do our best to increase our chances to harvest as many deer as possible. Of course when we are successful it usually requires much more work, trailing game, cleaning it and processing it, and hopefully making a trip to the taxidermist. With so much going on it usually never even crosses a hunter’s mind that they should be recording the data from their harvests. Actually, taking a few extra minutes to record a few specific things from your harvested deer can assist you in your future management endeavors as well as giving you an insight of how your management efforts are currently going.
When it comes to harvest recordation I automatically think about the weight of an animal. This applies for bucks and does but there are also a few other things you can record. Usually I will record the deer’s live weight but you can record the field dressed weight too. Just make sure that it is noted if a particular deer is field dressed or not so you won’t be comparing two very different weights. I also pull the jawbone for aging purposes and I do this by analyzing the tooth wear. I have found this to be the most interesting part of data recordation. I usually try to harvest bucks only 3.5 or older so after a kill I am pretty anxious to examine the tooth wear. This is also helpful when managing a property that has an age-specific harvest requirement. Checking out the antlers and roughly score them is my next plan of action. The reason for this is I want to be able to look back over the last few hunting seasons and tell what age the deer were and what they scored. For example, if you are attempting to harvest deer at a certain antler score or age it helps to be able to look back and know that in the past three years two bucks scoring 130 inches have been harvested and all of the bucks were 3.5 years old. That should notify you that if you want a larger bucks maybe you should strive for 4.5 year harvest requirements. Of course there are exceptions to every property and aging the deer on the hoof can help you reach your goals too.
The same applies for does. I usually check them out and see what they weigh. If it is in the early season I will check to see if they are still lactating or not. If the harvest occurs later in the year you can extract the fetus and compare it with a fetal scale that biologists commonly use. The size of the developing fetus will allow an in-depth look at the time of conception, and this is very helpful when determining the peak breeding time. Of course, if the doe has a fetus it was taken post-rut, so it won’t help you that year because the rut is already over but after a few years of data you may be able to compare when the peak breeding time is occurring, relatively.
Lastly, I inspect every deer I harvest for unique characteristics and signs of wear and tear. Sometimes taking the time to look over the deer can result in some neat findings. This past year I have harvested a buck that had a minor leg injury. I probably never would have found it had I not inspected the deer carefully. I had to actually feel the deer’s leg to find the slug that was buried in it. Amazingly enough, the buck never showed any signs of injury. Other times I have harvested deer, usually bucks that have brain abscesses and other injuries to their head and neck. I suspect this is done during the rut when sparring. While this may not be necessary from a management aspect, it is very interesting.
Many hunters choose not to record harvested deer data but the ones that chose to do so usually have a better idea of what is happening on their property and use the data as a means of gauging the management practices. Point in case, some of the most successful cooperatives and hunting lands record data religiously and interpret what they learn. Even if you aren’t a die-hard deer manager it is still pretty cool to be able to look back and see the details of that buck hanging on your wall.