Deer Jaw Submission & Antler Measurements


Issue/Problem Statement
Knowledge of the age structure of Nova Scotia's deer population is valuable when assessing status of herd, recruitment rate, vulnerability of various age classes to hunting and the overall impact of hunting. This can be achieved by collecting deer jaws from successful hunters, however hunters must be offered an incentive if an adequate sample size is to be realized.

Research has shown that the size (base circumference and number of points) of yearling buck antlers is indicative of the over all condition of the herd at the end of the growing season.

Objective
To determine the age structure of hunter killed deer and antler size of yearling bucks, annually.

Methods
Each year during and shortly after the fall deer hunting season, successful hunters are offered a 3 inch diameter embroidered jacket "Deer Management Contributor - Nova Scotia 19--" crest in exchange for the lower jaw of their deer, together with measurements of its antlers. The crests are available only at DNR district offices and exchanged for the properly cleaned and dried jaw with antler measurements of the same animal. To take the circumference measurements of antlers, hunters are provided a small measure tape in the form of a tear off strip along the bottom of their hunting license.

Age of each jaw is determined by tooth eruption for younger aged deer and extent of tooth wear of older age class animals. All antler measurements are recorded and compared to data collected in other years. The size and number of points of yearling buck antlers are most indicative of the relative condition of the herd.

Crest production costs are about $2,000 at current harvest levels, but will increase as does the harvest. In 1994, 1995 and 1996, this information was collected from hunters on about 20% of deer taken. This sample size is considered adequate for the purposes of this program. It is a voluntary involvement program and much cheeper to run than the alternative method of establishing biological field check stations run by DNR staff during the hunting season.

Partners
Successful Deer Hunters and Regional Services Staff.

Project Dates and Duration
On-going - Each fall during period of legal hunting season and shortly after.

Progress to Date
During fall 1994, 1995, and 1996, 1023, 1210 and 967 jaws, complete with antler measurements, were collected from hunters.

Age determinations for all jaws submitted during 1996 were as follows:

Age

1.5

2.5

3.5

4.5

5.5

6.5

7.5

8.5

9.5

#

727

283

145

94

22

14

6

3

0

1294

%

56.2

21.9

11.2

7.3

1.7

1.1

0.5

0.2

0

Antler Beam Diameter of yearling bucks (YABD) has shown a slight increase from 17.4 mm in fall 1994 to 18.6 mm in the fall of 1995. During the fall of 1996, YABD again increased to 19.2 mm. Although there is little information available on expected yearling antler development in Nova Scotia, literature on the subject from Maine and New York States suggest that our 1994 figure would indicate our herd and the general condition of its range was near the top end of "Fair". Our 1995 figure of 18.6 mm would be categorized as "Good" herd and range condition, and our 1996 figure of 19.2 mm is at the top end of "Good", just below "Excellent".

Reporting
Reporting: For internal use, although available to public upon request. Value of data is in trend information.

Management Recommendations
This program should be continued as it allows assessment of herd structure and pre-winter condition. Particularly now with a "Buck Law" in force, the age of bucks available to hunters and remaining in the herd for breeding purposes is important to monitor.

These crests have become a valued collector item for hunters. The crests are indicative of not only a skilled hunter, but a hunter who participates in the management of the species.

Final Report:Ongoing

Completion Date: Annual, February