You asked for it, and you got it.
Through survey responses, a majority of Fort Benning hunters asked for a quality deer management program, and come this year’s deer hunting season, they will have one.
Quality deer management is designed to help younger bucks reach maturity and to promote overall herd health, said Brent Widener, with the Conservation Branch, Environmental Management Division, Directorate of Public Works. Weights of one-and-a-half-year-old deer are an important measurement used to determine herd health.On average, the one-and-a-half-year-old deer being harvested weigh in at 60 pounds, but 75 pounds is considered an average size, the fish and wildlife biologist said.
Of the installation’s 140,000 acres available for hunting, a total of 20,000 acres located north of Buena Vista Road and east of Upatoi Creek, is the QDM hunting area. Here, hunters can only harvest bucks that have at least four points on one side, one inch or longer. This gives younger bucks a chance to grow up, Widener said.
“What’s happening right now on Fort Benning, we are harvesting as many does as we are bucks — 50 percent does and 50 percent bucks,” Widener said.
For the program work, the percentage of does and bucks harvested needs to change.
“We would like to see that go to two does harvested for every buck.
“We have a deer population that is overabundant,” he said. The resources only support so many animals on the landscape. In order for the herd to be healthier, the number of deer needs to decrease.
Data from an annual census to estimate density confirms there are 30 deer per square mile and 7,000 total deer on Fort Benning.
All hunters are encouraged, but not required, to harvest at least two does annually.“If they aren’t healthy, they aren’t going to reproduce at the rate that they should,” he said.
The Commanding General’s Natural Resources Advisory Council, which includes a representative from each major subordinate command, voted to support the program and came up with a plan to implement it.
“We won’t see a change overnight,” said Ed House, a member of the council who has hunted at Fort Benning for five years. “But for those who are patient, in two or three years, we’ll see a change. I think the program is a good thing. It will increase opportunities to hunt mature bucks.”
The benefit, but not the focus of the program, is hunters will eventually be able to hunt higher quality deer, Widener said.
Editor’s note: To get a copy of the 2010 Fort Benning fishing and hunting regulation or a copy of the fishing and hunting map, visit https://www.benning.army.mil/emd/conservation/index.htm.