Virginia Landowners: Leave My Bucks Alone

Tony S. from Virginia writes to ask about deer damage kills. “It seems to me that if a farmer has crop damage and wants crop damage permits to shoot deer, they should only shoot does. In the area I hunt, it seems that our buck sightings are down, and the rumors are that farmers are hammering bucks with their crop damage permits. Do you know anything about this?”

Dr. Dave Samuel

First, I might note that Virginia has a Deer Management Assistance Program that allows landowners to better manage the deer on their property. This is an exemplary program that many states could emulate. Now relative to your question, landowners can get permits to kill deer if they have a lot of crop damage. I don’t know how many deer were killed under this program in your area, but in 2011 under this program, Virginia killed 10,862 does and 406 bucks. That may seem like a lot of bucks, but when you consider that the legal buck harvest in Virginia for 2011 was 98,874 then you realize that 406 bucks is just a small number. Considering the doe harvest was over 134,000, the crop damage doe harvest was also not totally out of line. 

Everywhere there are crop damage permits given, you hear hunter rumors that the landowners are shooting bucks instead of does. Usually these rumors are false. Because of the above data, I’d say that if you saw fewer bucks in your area, it had nothing to do with the number of bucks taken under crop damage programs. 

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for If you have a question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, manager of Guide Outdoors & Social Content at to Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.

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