At one time or another, we've all seen something strange or unexpected in the woods. Sometimes we may gravitate towards the unusual whereas in other cases, the inclination may to be to gravitate away. A potentially uncommon sight, for example, could be a deer wearing a collar, but this is not something that Missouri hunters should avoid. In fact, quite the opposite is being encouraged in that you should collar that collared deer just as you would any other.
The Missouri Department of Conservation is responsible for the collared deer some hunters are seeing in the woods this season. Since the beginning of the year, these deer have been part of a research study. For this purpose, both does and bucks have been outfitted with collars in different parts of the state as a means of tracking behavior and movement which is an important part of the information being gathered. Also important is mortality by harvest, which is why the Missouri Department of Conservation is encouraging whitetail hunters to treat the collared deer as they would a deer without this accessory. They only ask that hunters call the number on the collar/tag once the harvest is complete.
The application of deer collars is all a part of scientific monitoring that is vital to the health of deer populations. Not only does this type of monitoring help understand the current state of deer numbers, but it also determines hunting needs and forecasts for management of those numbers. Also further understood is the presence of disease amongst Missouri's deer, such as epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) and the bluetongue virus (BTV).
As far as the actual collar goes, it weighs in at just under two pounds and is equipped with GPS that is monitored daily. Current technology has come a long way from the days when VHF was used and has therefore enabled tracking more accurately and with greater ease. As data is gathered, it is compared to data from years past to determine population growth or decline. Also seen is general movement which has left researchers impressed by the distance some deer are travelling. Each collar essentially pings back to computer on a routine basis every five hours to record the whereabouts of the collared deer. In comparison to the past utilization of VHF collars, those with GPS technology enable researchers to be more efficient, accomplishing much more without ever leaving the office than they might have trying to track down a deer with a VHF collar in the field.
Photo: Deer and Deer Hunting
In order to fit deer with collars, the help of private landowners has been invaluable as much of the land in collaring areas is privately owned. On such property in two four-county areas, deer were captured using rocket nets and clover traps. Once captured, 100 deer of both genders and varying ages were outfitted with collars. This took place initially in the months after the end of last hunting season and then again with 56 fawns during the months of May through June. Collaring deer will recur on an annual basis in order to compensate for mortality via hunting or natural death.
Regarding the collars, Jon McRoberts, a postdoctoral research associate, had the following to say to the Houston Herald:
"It's a proactive approach to manage the deer herd more effectively that will benefit all Missourians," McRoberts said. "The project is not something that's being done for a select group. If it can be managed to effectively reflect what people want and what's environmentally sound, then it's going to be a good situation for everybody. It just allows for a more complete understanding of what might happen."
As this program continues to evolve, so will insight into the lives of whitetails in Missouri. Ultimately this information will foster better deer management, improving the hunting experience for all. At the same time, illness and disease will mitigated all thanks to a handy accessory around a deer's neck.
Have you seen a deer with a collar yet this year? Have you harvested one? Let us know about your experience in the comments.