Ask Dr. Dave: How do I Count Deer on My Property?

Thomas P. from Michigan writes to ask about ways to count deer.

“I have a 120-acre farm where I hunt. I’d like to get a handle on the number of deer on that property. Is there a good way to do that?”

Dr. Dave Samuel
Dr. Dave Samuel

That is a dandy question and here are my thoughts. First, the deer on your property (at least most of them) do not spend all their time on those 120 acres. They travel over your property lines all the time. Getting a deer census (total count) is next to impossible, even if you use the latest technology. What you want is some idea of the number of bucks and does you have, both before and after the harvest, and you want such data year-after-year. If you do that, then it gives you a better idea of the number of does to harvest and the quality of the bucks that use your farm.

Given that, here is what I would do. In August, place three- to four trail cameras at bait (corn) stations strategically located at various places on the farm and not necessarily where your stands are located. Run them for seven consecutive days the same week each year, with good weather if possible. Categorize the deer on camera as bucks (and identify as many individuals as possible), adult does and fawns. After doing this for two-to three years, you will start to get a pretty fair idea of the number and quality of your deer, the impacts of your deer management strategies, and the impacts of planted food plots.

If you have a question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, manager of Guide Outdoors. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for more than 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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