NEW HAMPSHIRE Deer Season Harvest: Comparison by County
Bergeron also noted that “this season’s estimated total harvest ranks among the top 25 total harvests going back 95 years to 1922. In fact, 21 of the top 25 years have taken place from 1995-2016 (during the last 22 years), and 9 of the top 10 years for adult buck harvests have taken place since 2000 (adult buck harvest numbers for 2016 have not yet been verified).
New Hampshire WHITE-TAILED DEER ASSESSMENT 2015
Historical Perspectives Deer population assessments from pre-colonial and colonial times are the epitome of qualitative information. As reported by Silver (1957), the best possible interpretation of early - 57 - records results in “absent”, “scarce”, “common” and “plentiful” as the most accurate descriptors available. It is necessary to use caution even in interpreting these terms however since “plentiful” likely meant a deer population averaging between 10 to 15 per square mile, not the 100+ per square mile seen in some populations (not New Hampshire).
Additionally, those estimates of 10- 15 deer per square mile applied to southern New Hampshire, not the mountains and further north where habitat, winter weather, and predation constraints were more intense.
Up until the mid 1800's Eastern Wolves and Deer in age-old
Deer appear to have been considered plentiful in southern New Hampshire, at least up through 1700 when increasing settlement with its increased land clearing and deer harvest pressure resulted in population declines.
By 1850, land clearing was about at its maximum and for much of the preceding 150 years deer hunting had been a year-round pastime if not occupation. By the late 1800’s deer were considered scarce.
At this time, improved management, law enforcement and farm abandonment all contributed to produce slow deer population increases until by 1950, they were once again considered plentiful.
Settlement in the north led to deer population increases due to the influence of several factors. “Perhaps the greatest influence in this direction was destruction of the wolves which the settlers prosecuted with great diligence.” Additionally, clearing of land for agriculture and timber harvest led to improvements in browse availability although these factors were thought to have had minimal impact.
This increase in deer numbers occurred during the early 1800’s and appears to have peaked about 1830. The reappearance of the wolf and the notion that eliminating the deer would solve the wolf “problem” combined with lumber camp meat hunting and other forms of market hunting decreased deer numbers to the point of scarcity by the late 1800’s.
As in the south, curtailment of over-harvest through management and enforcement resulted in population increases through the early 1900’s. Since the extirpation of the wolf, northern deer populations are primarily influenced by hunting and winter severity.
Recent estimates from New Hampshire (which are derived from similar data using similar modeling methodology) are 12.3 deer per square mile of habitat (100,118 deer in 8,140 square miles of deer habitat). Current density estimates in Maine and New Hampshire are based on harvest data including the sex and age composition of the kill in addition to estimates of productivity and non-hunting mortality. Because of the reliance on harvest data however, populations can be under-estimated in areas with limited hunter access or in areas of very low hunter pressure. Moving south and west from New Hampshire, states with less severe winters, higher overall soil productivity, and in some cases limited ability to control populations, can see deer populations averaging 30-40 per square mile and locally in excess of 100 per square mile.
In past planning efforts in Maine, maximum desired pre-hunt deer densities did not exceed 24 deer per square mile. This is also probably about the upper limit of long-term biological and cultural carrying capacity for deer in New Hampshire’s “best” deer habitat as well. Based on New Hampshire data, this density (24 deer per square mile) would equate to an adult buck kill of approximately 1.8 per square mile. Currently WMU M is the only unit at this level with an adult buck kill of 1.7 per square mile. However, other southeastern units are approaching this level
Litvaitis and doctoral student Rory Carroll are leading the study.
New Hampshire’s bobcat population has rebounded since it was protected from hunting in 1989. UNH researchers estimate there are as many as 1,400 bobcats in the state. -
HISTORICAL INFORMATION While population densities of white-tailed deer prior to European settlement are uncertain, it is generally accepted that they were much lower than current populations. Three distinct historical stages with regards to white-tailed deer populations can be delineated. The first stage, pre-European settlement prior to 1700, can be characterized by low deer densities.
Deer populations were regulated by cyclical harsh winters (every 10-20 years) which resulted in elevated mortality. Predators inhibited deer populations from increasing significantly following severe winters. These predators included carnivores like wolves and mountain lions and the several million indigenous people that depended on deer for sustenance (Rooney 2001). These predators were only able to regulate white-tailed deer numbers at the low densities that occurred during this era (Eberhardt and Peterson, 1999).
Finally, population growth was hampered by the depleted food resources made available by the composition and structure of the dense mature forests (Leopold, 1943; McCaffery 1976).