How The Drought Across The United States Will Affect Deer Hunting


Published: September - 2011

Contributor Michael Bodenchuk looked into the effects of the 2011 drought on deer populations across the country and what it means for hunting. Here's what he says hunters should be prepared for: While much of the US has experienced above-average rainfall this summer, a large part of the south-central and southwest US are experiencing record drought. The NOAA/National Climatic Data Center (www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/ncdc.html) reports drought conditions for the nation using the Palmer "Z" index for the past 12 months. The index for July, 2011 shows extreme drought for most of Texas, the eastern one-third of New Mexico, most of Oklahoma and southwest Kansas. While most of the extreme drought area in this region hovers around 50 percent of "normal" precipitation, some areas are worse than others. Drought is also affecting areas of less interest to most traveling hunters, including western New York and northwest Pennsylvania, western Indiana and eastern Kentucky and parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. When you add severe drought (just slightly better than extreme) in southeast Colorado and a large strip along the Appalachians, there will be widespread impacts to wildlife in general and some big game species in particular this year and beyond. Whitetail deer are particularly susceptible to drought throughout much of the country, primarily because they have smaller home ranges than other big game. Whitetail generally find everything they need in the way of food, cover and space in a relatively small area. Drought in large geographic areas will impact entire populations of whitetail deer. Pronghorn are particularly sensitive to drought and the immediate result is a loss in mass and length of horns. Remember that pronghorn are the only animal that shed and re-grow true horn annually. In drought conditions, the horns are thin and do not add length during the critical period in spring and summer. While mule deer antler growth generally increases with age up to 7-1/2 years, recent research has documented declines in antlers during severe and extreme drought. For example, in a normal year about half of the yearling bucks will be spike deer, but this year we would expect........(continued)
 
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