Evaluating Competing Preferences of Hunters and Landowners for Management of Deer Populations
Most state wildlife agencies consider public input in the management of whitetailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) populations. In 2013, we surveyed deer hunters (n = 3,600) and landowners (n = 4,604) in southwest Minnesota to gauge their preferences for managing deer. We hypothesized a priori that, irrespective of their perceived impacts of deer, hunters would prefer deer populations to be increased and landowners would prefer deer populations to be decreased. Our findings suggest that defining
... ggest that defining stakeholder groups according to primary associations with deer (i.e., farming and hunting) accurately categorized differences in tolerance levels for deer populations in our study area. Deer damage was considered relatively minor by landowners, yet, 51% of landowners wanted deer densities reduced. Although 59% of hunters were satisfied with the number of deer, 62% of hunters still wanted deer densities increased in the future. Almost two-thirds of hunters were not satisfied with the number or quality of bucks where they hunted, and an antler-point restriction was the only potential regulation supported by hunters to reduce harvest mortality rates of bucks. To enable managers to monitor trends in public satisfaction relative to the fundamental objectives of deer management in an area, we recommend conducting frequent surveys of primary stakeholders.