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Deer numbers vs 50 years ago given changes


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We had this conversation at lunch during the season and it keeps coming back up in my mind when I'm tired of watching squirrels. Before everybody starts to filter out of these great threads I thought I'd ask. When I came of age 50ish years ago it was smooth bore shotguns, traditional bows, shorter seasons, no camo, tree stands were wood 2X4s and not that prevalent and one doe tag for three hunters with the guy wearing the arm band the only one who could bag a doe. Now its longer seasons, rifles and rifled shotguns, compounds, crossbows, tree stands, camo, scents and scent killers, trail cams and range finders. Add to all that DMPS are given out readily with leftovers to boot.

So more deer must be being taken now-a-days but the herd is flourishing - why? Are there more deer than back then? Why? Is it more Ag crops or wooded suburbs or what? Perhaps its been too much time in the woods but I'd love some opinions - thanks.

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Yes, there's more deer now.

  Large tracks of land that were undeveloped 50 yrs ago and accessible, now are developments or anti hunters own and don't allow hunting.  Combine lack of access and lower numbers of hunters and the deers ability to adapt to the changing landscape, heard numbers increased. 

Edited by mowin
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There are way more whitetail deer than 100 years ago I recall seeing, they can exist in small wooded tracts and are well suited to suburban grass/plants/etc as a diet, plus that development has suppressed predators like wolves (though coyotes have flourished). There’s a good documentary on Netflix about deer.

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3 hours ago, Unit8R said:

We had this conversation at lunch during the season and it keeps coming back up in my mind when I'm tired of watching squirrels. Before everybody starts to filter out of these great threads I thought I'd ask. When I came of age 50ish years ago it was smooth bore shotguns, traditional bows, shorter seasons, no camo, tree stands were wood 2X4s and not that prevalent and one doe tag for three hunters with the guy wearing the arm band the only one who could bag a doe. Now its longer seasons, rifles and rifled shotguns, compounds, crossbows, tree stands, camo, scents and scent killers, trail cams and range finders. Add to all that DMPS are given out readily with leftovers to boot.

So more deer must be being taken now-a-days but the herd is flourishing - why? Are there more deer than back then? Why? Is it more Ag crops or wooded suburbs or what? Perhaps its been too much time in the woods but I'd love some opinions - thanks.

50 years ago hunting was really hunting. Now a days it’s not real tough to shoot numerous mature deer every year because for the most part the deer we have are is smaller areas.             I would dare say a whole bunch of today’s hunters would not have done very well 40-50 years ago. 

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I dont know what the actual (reported) deer take is now vs fifty years ago...I started hunting over forty years ago, but the conditions were pretty much the same as Unit8r mentioned. Larger groups, more hunters, we did alot more drives that could be very productive if we werent seeing anything. Now there are fewer hunters but techniques are much more efficient. It would be interesting to know what percentage of hunters mainly use public lands vs back then. We used to hunt alot of public land, and there would be alot of hunters. Now there are few vehicles. Fewer guys moving deer around. I think private landowners restrict hunting more, but the hunters on the public land are more successful. 

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I didn't hunt 40-50 years ago but perhaps some of you that did could confirm.   Deer are very adaptive animals.   I suspect most that are killed today are in agricultural areas where food is prevalent and herds have grown.   Those lands are now not as accessible in years past as landowners have become more concerned about liability (not a real risk but it is perceived), most lands are posted and not open to anyone and leases are the norm to make extra income.  This reduces the number of hunters on any given parcel keeping herd numbers higher.  In short, private land where deer herds are greater is now less accessible than in years past allowing the herds to grow even more.   And I bet hunting the ADK now is pretty much the same as it was 40-50 years ago.  I also wonder if farms that feed these deer are even larger due to the technology that affords farmers the ability to farm larger parcels.

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I shot my first buck in 1966 on public, state land (Erwin mgt Area). Back then,  it was "normal" to see many (30-40) deer per day on opening day, the first Saturday (season opened on Monday) and Thanksgiving morning. There were way more hunters around pushing. Parked cars along most rural roads were commonplace. Bet ya Dan (Pygmy) would say the same. Times sure have changed. 

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Up to 100 years ago wild game was destroyed by over hunting.  Our preservation attempts are successful and working. If your not seeing deer your aren't hunting in the place where they live, it is not for lack of population.  Urban fringes are great places for herd survival so I would focus there if your looking to kill more deer.  Central NY is loaded with deer, state land around ithaca and Binghamton is very good hunting with little pressure and high deer population. 

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33 minutes ago, moog5050 said:

I didn't hunt 40-50 years ago but perhaps some of you that did could confirm.   Deer are very adaptive animals.   I suspect most that are killed today are in agricultural areas where food is prevalent and herds have grown.   Those lands are now not as accessible in years past as landowners have become more concerned about liability (not a real risk but it is perceived), most lands are posted and not open to anyone and leases are the norm to make extra income.  This reduces the number of hunters on any given parcel keeping herd numbers higher.  In short, private land where deer herds are greater is now less accessible than in years past allowing the herds to grow even more.   And I bet hunting the ADK now is pretty much the same as it was 40-50 years ago.  I also wonder if farms that feed these deer are even larger due to the technology that affords farmers the ability to farm larger parcels.

Farms are larger , the small guy has a hard time theses days. There’s five farm families in Ontario county that buy up most land before it’s listed , fortunately my wife’s maiden name is the same as one of those families.

Its all posted with one or two guys on his assigned chunk .

As for liability, perception is reality . We are buying liability insurance this year ,as well as posting it , per recommendation of our attorney who wants to “ avoid falling victim to a creative lawsuit .”  The snowmobiled club was declined the use of our land , yet their trail signs were put up across it . So they were contacted to remove them , but that was the tipping point, for posting and insurance , as well .

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Cant say 50 years ago ,but 33 years ago there were a lot more doe and less buck, doe tags required 4 to apply, monday opening was vital to. The camp comroderie and economic health of small towns.  Was more relaxed and multiple shots were common as driving deer or small pushes were common . 

We have more ballanced herd today , but everything is rushed to arriving at camp fri night, equipment upgrades, calls, scents... to me it maybe good hunting but its all become a contest on biggest, most ,ect.. 

Long gone is the time when any deer taken in camp was a celebration!!  Hunters helped hunters get deer . Camps cooperated to. Drive thick large parcels .  This it what deer hunting misses most today. 

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As for more deer and why? Ask alot of hunters on here and deer are scarce this year. 

Biggest reason smaller properties and habitat. Family farms are gone and broke up. Theu revert to woodlands and deer population grew as they are creatures of edge. Unfortunately this is also hurting many hubting areas as brush grows into mature forest deer numbers drop gone is their security cover. 

Fortunately many have taken an interest in making food plots , this is a temporary fix as deer still need safe cover for bedding and will bed quite a didtance and feed under darkness. A wholistic approch is best when trying to improve your hunting . Cover, security, food for all4 season are all required to consisitantly keep deer numbers up.

 

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1 hour ago, bugsNbows said:

I shot my first buck in 1966 on public, state land (Erwin mgt Area). Back then,  it was "normal" to see many (30-40) deer per day on opening day, the first Saturday (season opened on Monday) and Thanksgiving morning. There were way more hunters around pushing. Parked cars along most rural roads were commonplace. Bet ya Dan (Pygmy) would say the same. Times sure have changed. 

Access as Moog mentioned, hunter numbers down, Technology betterments. The falls and winters are much more gentle now. (I remember walking in snow up to my knees).  Clothing, boot and gloves are so much more efficient now. You can actually sit all day. We had no choice but to move to keep hunting all day back then. Still hunt or do drives just to warm up. 

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9 minutes ago, Culvercreek hunt club said:

Access as Moog mentioned, hunter numbers down, Technology betterments. The falls and winters are much more gentle now. (I remember walking in snow up to my knees).  Clothing, boot and gloves are so much more efficient now. You can actually sit all day. We had no choice but to move to keep hunting all day back then. Still hunt or do drives just to warm up. 

My Dads total hunting “ gear” could fit in one coat pocket .

His boots were those non insulated green rubber boots with yellow laces , a green upland coat with an orange vest , a red hat and green wool gloves . 
 

I started with the same boots , but we put bread wrappers over our feet to make them waterproof .

We sat freezing till 9, sweated our ass off driving miles of farmland till 3 or so, then sat freezing till dark . When I’m an old fool ( insert joke here )  talking about the past days of hunting , it won’t be stories like this ...

” Why I could sit in a blind from dark to dark, went trough two green propane tanks and drained my phone battery ! “ 

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20 minutes ago, moog5050 said:

Sounds like I waited until the optimal time to start hunting.   You guys don’t make hunting of yesteryear to sound all that fun.  Imagine only 3 stations on my blind TV.   That would stink.  

On the very best of days you might get UTV Channel 29

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As others have said used to be way more hunters, back 34 years ago when I started at 16 ( the legal age one could big game hunt ) I remember 10-15 guys at my uncles hunting camp opening day. My uncles owned 100 acres in the valley but we had permission to hunt the entire valley so maybe 1000 acres total . We sat in the morning and did drives in the afternoon . I remember this one day during opening week I think was 17or 18 at the time and  after our 9 o’clock coffee break that we always took.  I remember  walking out the camp door and seeing a solid line of guys putting  on a drive in this  100-150 acre field on a side hill 2 valleys over. There had to have been 30-40 guys in a line driving this golden rod field, who knows how many watchers they had. But I do remember hearing all the gun shots going off in the distance as we were walking to put on our own drive . One doesn’t see those things now a days or have the land access to do it. 

 

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Rob, there’s not much in this photo  ( and many other spots  not in it ) we didn’t drive , along with everyone else in the area ,deer were running all day . I had 4 guys , Ron behind me 6-8 we teamed up each morning . Today much is off limits and much of the best spots the farmers have turned into fields , which I understand . 

Today I have one other guy sometimes and Ron , well it’s just him nowadays . 
 

Sitting is great for bow , but boring as hell in gun . 

9980FDD9-C502-4ED8-B354-B7E585111794.png

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21 hours ago, Unit8R said:

We had this conversation at lunch during the season and it keeps coming back up in my mind when I'm tired of watching squirrels. Before everybody starts to filter out of these great threads I thought I'd ask. When I came of age 50ish years ago it was smooth bore shotguns, traditional bows, shorter seasons, no camo, tree stands were wood 2X4s and not that prevalent and one doe tag for three hunters with the guy wearing the arm band the only one who could bag a doe. Now its longer seasons, rifles and rifled shotguns, compounds, crossbows, tree stands, camo, scents and scent killers, trail cams and range finders. Add to all that DMPS are given out readily with leftovers to boot.

So more deer must be being taken now-a-days but the herd is flourishing - why? Are there more deer than back then? Why? Is it more Ag crops or wooded suburbs or what? Perhaps its been too much time in the woods but I'd love some opinions - thanks.

YEP I AGREE  35 year ago more hunters  now less hunters  and many only shoot if they see  big horn .

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This would be more of a northern tier thing, but maybe not...The pulp /paper, logging industry isnt what it used to be and god only knows how many hundreds of thousands of acres of woodlands are no longer being cut /regrown, greatly changing the deer holding capacity in alot of forestlands. Hundreds ... minimally, of hunting camps that were on former paper or other private lands are now on less productive state forest lands. Just where my camp is, there was several hundred acres of former farm land, now gone to forest. I am sure it is unable to hold the same productivity as in former years.

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I go back 40 years. Did my hunting on the hillside behind our village. Probably 7-800 acres owned mostly by 2 farmers-one hunted a bit, the other didn't hunt, First day probably had 25-30 men hunting-the farmers let anybody local and well known hunt there. Plenty of doe-but permits were very limited-4 hunters on one when I started. If there were 20 bucks in the area, I'm guessing 15 were killed. No drives, but someone was always moving,

Today I hunt my brother's 80 acres, and the neighboring 75 we lease. Not a lot of other hunters in the surrounding 500 acres. Plenty of deer, but we don't see many after the first few days until around this time of the season. I am convinced they settle in the area where there is little hunting pressure for most of rifle season. Five of us hunt regularly, and we have killed 3 bucks and 2 doe. Both my brother and nephew won't shoot anything but mature bucks.  Better %  of kills than my old area, but not the deer sightings. 

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1 hour ago, Nomad said:

Different times for sure, I didn’t use a tree stand for the first 12 years or so . From ‘75- ‘91  I shot pumpkin balls out of a bird barrel 12 ga .

Things sure have changed, I didn’t use my first stand till 92-93 and I hunted with a [email protected] single 12 smooth bore shooting Remington sluggers. No camo  wore blue jeans, carhart  coat with a orange vest and hat. And as you said  saving bread bags to wear on your feet under your boots  towards the end of summer for the  up coming season was a necessity. 

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