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help sustain the population

The annual deer harvest on the Chuck Swan began to drop precipitously in the 1990s. In 1997, it was 457 deer; in 1998, 404. The low point was 2000, when only 198 deer were taken, but that's when things started to turn around. The harvest was 221 in 2001, 240 in 2002 and 261 in 2003. Mike said that the ratio of bucks to does in the harvest is around 4-to-1, a number that he's comfortable with as far as having a baseline to rebuild the herd.

"We haven't done anything to try and calculate the herd density as far as real numbers are concerned," Mike said. "The biggest thing we use is an APC count, a parasite count. We go out and kill five does during the summer and work them up, and while the condition of those deer doesn't give us a real exact guess at the number of deer we've got, it gives us an index of what it needs to yield. You can have computer-generated numbers, and they can either be way off or right on line, but with the APC, it's very, very accurate.

"I'd like to see our harvest back up to around 400 or 500 deer (around 10 per square mile). When we get to that level for two or three years in a row, I'll start thinking about adding antlerless hunts to help sustain the population."

Mike believes that an early-January either-sex gun hunt that was popular over the past 10 years was among factors that contributed to some overharvest of deer on the Chuck Swan. That hunt was discontinued recently, and Mike also got a non-quota bucks-only hunt and a December either-sex archery hunt discontinued.