Robin Van Gyn
Across much of North America, deer rank as the most common big-game animals—and some of the most ecologically significant critters on the landscape. Because of their size, distribution, and (overall) abundance, these fleet, watchful ungulates (hoofed mammals) have been prized quarry for hunters since prehistory. In the United States, deer hunting is something of a religion for many sportspeople, and meanwhile wildlife managers rely on hunters to help keep the deer population healthy and in check. Obviously many hunters prize a big-antlered trophy buck, but much deer hunting in America remains a subsistence pursuit: linking the hunter of today with …
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The agencies in charge of managing state deer herds establish hunting regulations based on the best available science with regard to population dynamics. This involves considering both the biological carrying capacity—how many deer a particular tract of land can support—and the social carrying capacity, which basically refers to the maximum number of deer people will tolerate (in the face of crop or garden damage, deer-vehicle collisions, and other human-perceived negatives).