White Buffalo Inc. worked within the landowner’s established parameters while also integrating research (permitted by NJ Fish and Wildlife) to understand the behavior and movements of deer that are intensively hunted. We also were responsible for testing and qualifying local recreational hunters for the Phase I herd reduction, identifying and choosing capable field project leaders, establishing a chain of command, training participants, and establishing stringent safety protocols, and overseeing the processing and donation of harvested animals. Finally, we oversaw annual aerial infrared counts to assess the programs progress.
Out of approximately 350 applicants, 74 were chosen to participate in the first two years (2004 and 2005). In the first year, we used a high concentration strategy with the 74 slug-gun firearm hunter participants placed in ~5 acres zones in the forested areas. This was followed by late-season deer drives utilizing 14 of the highest performing hunter participants. The second year, an archery component was added, and only the best 37 participants were invited back. After five years, the participant pool was gradually reduced to 12 participants utilizing the same selection process.
White Buffalo Inc. successfully developed and deployed a deer management program that was designed to accommodate changing conditions as a progression of strategies were implemented while goals were attained. We had to anticipate the evolution of the field tactics to ensure an efficient reduction from extremely high to very low densities in a landscape with refuges for deer if too much hunting pressure were applied. An approach that works at 200 deer/mile2 will not necessarily work at <50 deer/mile2. As densities are reduced, methods must become more specialized. Flexibility, foresight, experience, planning, and a willingness to embrace hard choices are mandatory for long-term success. A critical realization is that deer management must persist for the foreseeable future, or the population will rapidly rebound to previous levels. Program costs have steadily decreased in subsequent years, as herd maintenance is much less intensive than initial efforts at reduction.
Duke Farms // Managed Hunt
Dukes Farms is an unusually large, contiguous property (>2500 acres) in heavily populated, suburban NJ. The property had extensive habitat degradation caused by a long-term exposure to an unmanaged deer herd. Initial densities were over ten times the recommended carrying capacity of the environment (>200 deer/mile2). This density of deer not only had a profound negative effect on native flora and fauna, but it also allowed invasive species to become firmly established on the property. In 2003, White Buffalo Inc. was contracted to design, implement, and supervise a comprehensive and sustainable deer management program to reduce, and then maintain the local densities at the ecological carrying capacity.