Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Large Numbers of Whitetail Deer Are Hard to Figure; Adaptable Nature Leads to Abundance, and It's Not Just in the South

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Large Numbers of Whitetail Deer Are Hard to Figure; Adaptable Nature Leads to Abundance, and It's Not Just in the South

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob McNally

Never before have so many hunters had the opportunity to harvest so many deer during seasons so long, in so many different regions of America, than today.

Even the Sunshine State (which has never had a reputation for great deer hunting) has a six-month hunting season running from Aug. 3 (south zone) to March 2 (Panhandle). Bag limit is a generous two deer per day, four in possession.

In South Carolina whitetail deer hunting starts Aug. 15, and in some areas sportsmen can harvest a buck a day (plus does with proper tags) through a season that ends Dec. 31.

In Alabama, archers head afield Oct. 1, and they can lawfully take one deer of each sex per day (three bucks per season, five does) through a season running through Jan. 31. Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana also have similar liberal hunting regulations.

But don't think the deer boom is only limited to the South. It's happening in the East, North and out West where whitetails have rapidly taken over traditional mule deer habitat.

Today's Michigan deer hunters harvest more whitetails in a single season than the number of deer that resided in the entire state in 1960. An estimated 1.75 million deer walk Michigan ground now, and some years hunters harvest 432,000 whitetails. The bulk of those deer are taken during a comparatively short 15-day rifle season. And in a typical archery season, over 300,000 bowmen collect over 125,000 whitetails.

The story is similar in Wisconsin, where only 35 years ago hunters were taking just over 100,000 deer per year. In one recent year 462,000 whitetails were downed by Wisconsin sportsmen from the state estimated deer herd of 1.5 million. Again, the majority of those deer are taken during a very short rifle season running just a couple weeks.

Even in urbanized New Jersey the whitetail boom is incredible by anyone's measure. There are so many deer in parts of New Jersey that the game department has made hunting so liberal, that, on paper at least, a hunter could harvest over 100 whitetails a single year.

Obviously, the good old days of deer hunting are happening today throughout whitetail country. But what has happened with deer over the past 10 to 20 years to produce such incredible population figures? How could there be so many deer in so many places so quickly? Why are there so many whitetails?

In the South, the battle to eliminate the screw worm in the 1940s is believed by many state game managers as the primary driving force behind the surge in Dixie deer populations. The screw worm weakened and killed cattle, in addition to deer. So the cattle industry spent a lot of money on research learning how to put the screws to the screw worm.

Through an ingenious method of sterilizing male screw worm flies, the parasite was eliminated from the U. …

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