Characteristics of Hunter Collected Data on White-tailed Deer Movements and Environmental Conditions
Hygnstrom, Scott E.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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The Stump Sitters Whitetail Study Group collected data on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) movements and associated weather conditions in 30 states and 1 Canadian province from 1 July 1977 to 31 December 1980. Data reliability was tested by comparing hunter estimated and instrumentally monitored weather conditions. Observers in the field less than 4 hours reliably estimated temperature, precipitation, wind velocity and sky conditions. Observers in the field more than 4 hours inaccurately reported weather conditions throughout the day. Stump Sitters recorded 33, 026.9 hours of observation and 10,121 deer sightings, most occurring from September through December in Wisconsin. Sex and age classes of deer seen were reported as doe (41.4%), fawn (21.9%), uncertain (21.7%) and buck (14.9%). Bowhunters recorded the most (58.4%) observation hours. The most often used hunting method and covertype were treestands (44.5%) and hardwood forests (41.9%) respectively. To compare weapons, hunting methods and covertypes used by observers, I used: 1) the numbers of deer observed and expected to be seen (effectiveness), 2) the total number of deer seen and the number of bucks seen per 100 hours of observation (efficiency), and 3) the mean minimum sighting distances (MSD) between the deer and observers for each variable class. Hunters who used bows, treestands and field edges were the most effective and efficient. Deer observations occurred in 3 peaks: 0530 to 0930, 1130 to 1230, and 1830 to 1930. Deer moved directly into the wind for all 8 primary compass directions, proportionately more than moving directly with, perpendicular to, quartering with or quartering into the wind. For all data, there were no practical relationships between deer seen and the independent variables: hours, temperature, wind velocity, precipitation, snow depth and sky condition. Moderate relationships existed in November (R^2 = 0.165) and December (R^2 = 0.457) between deer seen and temperature, wind velocity, snow depth and sky conditions for a selected subpopulation of deer sightings from Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. These relationships were not present in non-winter months. Recommendations were made for the improvement of data collection procedures.