Today is Thursday, August 17, 2017

Bored? Do a model

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Two mature does -- full sisters, born as twins.

One of the great things about being the sort of outdoor writer I am, is that you never run out of things to write about.

See, I don't usually write about outdoor or sports shows or stuff like that.

That is what daily papers and television are for -- more reporting than writing.

And just because it is prime night fishing season, that doesn't mean I have to write about that, either.

So, I'm driving home from Bible study the other morning and the six deer that make up a family unit, (f.u.), behind my house, greet me as I pull in the driveway.

Over a 24-hour period, in addition to the deer, I had five turkey gobblers, three groundhogs, two rabbits and a host of moles in the backyard.

So, I thunk of something to write about.

I decided to do a short-sleeve model. No, not model a short-sleeve shirt, a short-sleeve model.

That's what we call armchair deer biology. Thought I'd share it with you, given the number of deer that live in our subdivisions. Thought you might want to try it. Keep in mind, it is not biologically 100% accurate, just an idee to go by. What you might call a rough guestimation.

There are six deer in this unit -- all female.

Plenty of bucks around, just not in this f.u. One is 5.5-y.o (years old), one 4.5, one 3.5, one 2.5 and two are 1.5. I have known them all their lives.

They are all related, as in mothers, daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters etc. That is why it is called a family unit.

Usually, a male fawn or two is in the makeup. I am going to make a fairly logical assumption. They were all bred and all should have fawned this spring.

I'm sure the fawns are hidden nearby. The four older does should have seven fawns-three sets of twins and a single. The two younger will have single fawns. That is nine fawns. Seven will survive, (probably). Probably four male, three female. Understand, this is all guesswork, not fact.

Now we add that back to the original six and we get a total of 13-deer. Probably nine female, three male.

Also, keep in mind, that is just in this f.u., not herd-wide. So, let's carry that out one more year. I model out about 13 fawns. Seven female, six male and about 20% of them will not survive.

So let's say we add the remaining 10 back to the 13-deer carryover. Now, in two years, that one family unit of six female deer has grown to a total of 23.

Thirteen female and 10 male. Of course, that is just an estimate.

Now we won't see that many due to dispersal. What is dispersal? It is a simple process by which the matriarch of the family unit will run off the bucks that have reached about 1.5- y.o.

Some think this is to prevent inbreeding. It may be. However, I tend to think it is more to control possibly injurious competition.

Most of the male deer we see in the fall are dominant or close to dominant bucks and younger, submissive bucks that have come from other family units.

Some think the dispersal comes from the Alpha doe.

To date, I have not had one respected biologist prove to me such an animal exists, let alone how you would identify one. But who cares.

Understand, alpha doe and matriarch are not the same thing.

Now to the point of this column. If I can model out 23 surviving deer from a family unit of six, consider what is happening all across the areas of Wilson County where there is little or no hunting.

The only decrease to the herd in these areas is from car wrecks and natural causes such as predation. That accounts for between 20-30%, more in some areas, less in others.

I did not feel like going to the trouble of carrying it out one more year but you get the idea.

So, I did a little research in my journals. In the 15 years I have been hunting a piece of property of less than 100 acres, I personally have killed 77 deer, mostly does.

Although I cannot prove it for a fact, I feel sure there are more deer there now, than when I started hunting it.

Deer modeling can be really interesting when you have more patience or computer skills than I. But you can do a simple version yourself with the deer in your backyard.

Start with the deer you know are female, certain they are female. Now estimate their age. Of those 2.5-y.o or older, probably 90% will have twins. The rest will have one fawn.

Now you can determine the number of fawns. About 53% of them will be male and 47% female. Now, from the number of fawns, use a 25% mortality. Add the remaining fawns back to the original and you have a herd to model for the next year.

Just as it has done for me, it will give you something to do in air conditioned comfort and explain why you are seeing more deer every year.

Obviously, in years of bad food sources, the fawn rate drops a little. And just as obviously, in area where deer are hunted, you would need to know how many are killed that way.

If you don't want to do that, go fishing. This is just something to do on a hot day and may or may not be accurate. Who cares?

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