April 6 & 9, 2005

This event was Sponsored by Penn State Cooperative Extension in cooperation with Penn State Dubois, The Quality Deer Management Association and the Treasure Lake Wildlife Committee.

There were approxiamtely 50 people in attendance. The program was well delivered and alot of information was shared with those in attendance tonight.

After introductions were made --

Kip Adams, Wildlfe Biologist and Northeast Regional Director, Quality Deer Management Association
gave a very interesting and informative talk on..

Deer Biology and Deer Habitat

It was very interesting to find out just what deer need in the way of good habitat and the results to the deer and deer herd if this good habitat is not present.

He talked about the importance of a balance not just with deer and the habitat but with the ages of the herd (adult vs yearlings, two year olds, etc) and sex ratios and structures of the deer herd itself.

He explained how the deer herd size and habitat conditions have influenced each other thru the years and how that even today the deer numbers are still above the habitat carrying capacity and that the habitat is the worst it has ever been in many areas of Pa. and so the herd will continue to shrink because of habitat alone, regardless of hunting.. there just is not enough food for the deer to live and survive in a healthy/productive way.

He also talked about the difference in deer densities and deer sightablilty and how they are totally different but yet related..

Deer density... is regulated by reproduction, recruitment, and survival...

Deer sightability.. is regulated by habitat type, food sources and their availability, hunting techniques (stand/still hunting vs.driving), deer behavior, weather, and deer density..


A quick thing I learned tonite that I did not know..

Did you know a mother will "chase" her young fawns off in different directions to rest and she will actually NOT KNOW where they are ?

This allows for her scent not to be near her young... when feeding time comes she will call for them and they will feed and the process will be repeated... survival.. one of the controlling factors in deer densities...

The next item up for presentation was done by Dave Jackson, Forest Resources Extension Educator, Penn State Cooperative Extension.. Centre County.

Dave's presentation was every bit as informative and interesting. He went into alot more detail on the food sources needed for healthy deer, their preferences in foods,
and even foods they do not prefer..

One striking point he made...

In good habitat the average deer will eat between 4-7 pounds of browse A DAY...

He gave us the following example to think about...

Just using 5# a day and a deer herd of 20 deer...for a 60 day period...

20 deer times 5# times 60 days

6,000 pounds of browse...

that's 3 tons !!!..or about 1-2 acres of browse ---think of a food plot... 8-)

Here is Dave holding a ONE POUND bag of deer browse... in this case oak browse...
Think about 4 to 7 of these a day PER deer in your area....
just how long would the habitat stay what it is there now with just 20 deer...?????

The last part of the evening was spent watching a great video by the Quality Deer Management Association called ...

.....Let Him Go So He Can Grow....

It focused on deer health and antler development and some information on QDM.

Three things that stood out to me were....

#1... Each time we put a deer in our sights we are about to practice our own style of deer management..

#2... "Dead deer do not grow"

#3... We (hunters) must harvest more does than bucks. This will keep the herd in balance with habitat and with itself and allow for more bucks and older healthier deer and happy hunters all enjoying the same good habitat.. other animals and birds will enjoy the better habitat too...

Some interesting points that were discussed at the meeting

.....The natural foods (not farm crops) growing in the woods and forests that deer eat only contain about 4-7% protein. So deer really need alot of these natural food sources to be at their highest degree of health.

.....deer only need four things in their habitat...

2..water.. much of what comes from what they eat, they really do not need alot of free-standing water.
3..cover.. shelter and a place to relax in a safe environment to finish the digestive process, also a place to hide newborns from predators. you can NOT crowd deer into small spaces, they need lots of free space, especially during the period when bucks and does are NOT together. Crowding deer into small spaces will actually aid in their death and spread diseases.

All four of the above are needed to provide an area for a good and healthy deer population.

.....In spring a buck uses its food intake in this order..

1..replace all that was lost over the winter and previous breeding season

2..Add weight to its body to regain its over-all health as it becomes another year older.

3.. Help to develop antler growth...
~~~Notice #3... antler growth is last~~~
if an area does not have a good food supply antler growth will be the first to suffer.. All the nutrients will be used for restoring and building body weight..
NOT antler growth

.....when a buck rubs a tree or over-hanging branch it wil leave up to 50 (FIFTY) different scents from glands on his head.. he will be telling other deer all about himself..
sort of his "personal ad" for a female and to also tell other males in this area he is here and what he is about... 8-)

.....most deer will lose 20% of their body weight over an average winter. of the other reasons bucks will "spar" is so they get an idea of just what they have on their heads as a "rack". They do not have mirrors to admire their head-gear.. this way they can run, jump etc without banging into everything in the woods where they live.


Deer live on PLANTS.... that's the basic message. They need plants for all their nutritional needs and to mantain themselves in good health.

Without a proper amount and variety deer will suffer. They suffer in health, size, reproduction, and even location. They will not stay in poor habitat, they will have to move to meet their needs.

To quote Merlin Benner, wildlife Biologist for DCNR ...

" My take home message is that deer preference is based on availability, nutrition, palatability, and digestability, and deer will pick the best of what's available at the time."

Here are some of the preferred plants of our Pa deer ..

Basswood is highly preferred in Pennsylvania.
BUT ---
~~Just how much of this do you see growiing around your area ~~8-)

sugar maple
red maple
oaks - red,white, black, pin
viburnum shrubs
tulip poplar

In the summer months they love fruits if they are available to them


They also will eat --- and notice... all of these food will vary depending on weather and they may not even be present every year for the deer to eat..
so again if they depend on these too much they will have to re-locate for better food sources if nothing else preferred is present at that time.


Deer will also enjoy Hemlock and some other evergreens especially in the colder winter months.

And we all know that deer love farm crops..winter wheat, corn,soybeans, grasses, and others..

But remember most of Pa is forested land and not farm crops. The best deer populations now in Pa (Health and size wise) are located near the farm crops.

Remembering that natural foods only give 4-7% protein you can easily see how having good plants in the forested areas is essential to good deer health and numbers in forested areas.

When you can stand and see 100-200 yards thru the woods and there is nothing growing from 6 inches up to 6 feet it should be is easy to see there is not much there for deer to eat, so those that live there are not going to be in the higher levels of health and their numbers (density) is not going to be very high either.

And with all that open space your odds of seeing them in that type forest are not very high either ... deer like privacy !!!

They WILL enter open areas fill their stomachs then retreat to a safe environment and "chew their cud" in peace.

Food is the #1 thing that effects deer..
their habitat, populations, locations, reproduction, size,ETC.


Deer Pellet Group CountsApril 9, 2005

I thought I would take some time and tell
you about how these counts are done.

I have pretty much copied the information from the instruction sheet we were given and I hope the folks at Penn State are not to upset that I placed it here, but I wanted to give a good clear picture of how these are done...

First let me assure you they are done in a scientific manner and are a very good method to find the "Over the Winter Deer Density" of a given area.

They required 4 pieces of information -

1..Number of pellet groups deposited per day per deer.

2..Period of time pellet groups are deposited

3..Number of pellet group counted in each plot

4..Area sampled by plots for pellet groups

Each of these in a little more detail

1)- Recent studies show that deer will deposit an average of 25 pellet groups per day (24 hour period)

2)- Annual leaf fall covers up pellet groups, only pellet groups deposited after leaf fall are visable for counting the following spring. Most leaves have fallen by November 15th in Pa. so the deposition period is figured by counting the days since leaf fall (Nov. 15th) to the day of the pellet count.

3)-Number of pellet groups is the actual number of pellet groups (piles of poop - 8-)] seen within the sample plot.
A 4 foot radius sample plot (an 8 foot circle) in which only pellet groups INSIDE that plot are counted.

Parallel lines are layed out one mile long and 1,000 feet apart.

4)-The area counted is figured at one square mile, this way you get an average deer per square mile result.

Doing the actual count....

Pellet groups are counted within a 4 foot radius plot located at 100 foot intervals along a transect line one mile long. The first plot is 100 feet from the starting point and the last is 100 feet from the end of the one mile transect line.

At the end of each transect line you take a 90 degree bearing and travel another 1,000 feet to the start of the next transect line.
There will be 52 plots per line. Distances are measure by pacing or hip chain (rope or string).

There must be at least 10 pellets in a group to be counted as a group, and at least half (5) of them MUST be inside the 8 foot circle and MUST be on top of the leaves..NO digging for them.. 8-)

The total number of plots and pellet groups are recorded.

Dead deer are also recorded

You must remember the area of a plot (8 foot circle) is 50.27 square feet. This is needed along with the number of plots to determine the area (square miles or parts there of) of the total counting area..

That's the basic instructions for a pellet count...
results are recorded and measured as follows....

(These are REAL figures for a 2003 Moshannon State Forest Pellet Count)

number of plots = 35
Area of plots = .00062 square mile
date March 29 = 134 days since leaf off
Pellet deposited per deer per day = 25
Number pellet groups counted = 49

Calculation ------

49 Pellet groups counted DIVIDED by
25 pellet groups a day TIMES 134 days TIMES.00062 square miles

EQUALS -------

24 Deer per square mile

Today's Treasure Lake Community pellet count showed a 60 deer per sqaure mile density....more on this later...


Today while we were doing the pellet count we were also doing a deer impact study. We were trying to see the impact that the deer had in this same area on the habitat and their food sources..

This was TOTALLY new for me and I found it EXTREMELY..repeat EXTREMELY interesting.

To do this (and what made it so interesting for me) a knowledgable person for identifing species of plants and trees is needed.. Plus some knowledge of deer preference for the various types of potential food sources.

Each of our 6 groups today had at least two wildlife and/or biology college students from Pa. State (Dubois) in a group, The ones in the group I was in were excellent in identifing species and answering the questions we asked about what we were doing and what we were seeing...

A special thank you to Josh Day and our board member Kevinupp... the other three members of our group were Chuck from the Erie area who traveled down for this program, Mike Faust, Pres. of the UBP, and me.
To say we had fun and learned alot would be an understatement.

Now for the baiscs of the Impact study ..

1.. deer damage was also recorded for every other plot (the 8 foot circle). we were looking for browse r re-generation of 6 specific species for this area.

One from each group of deer food preferences. Our 6 for today were..

HIgh preference--Oak and Maple
Medium..Cherry and Hemlock
Low.. Striped Maple and Beech

2...damage was to be recorded as such....

a...if there was no re-generation greater than 6 inches in the circle it was entered as NONE

b...If a least one of the seleted species was present and was greater than 6 inches but not browsed it was entered as NO IMPACT

c...If at least one seedling was present and damaged from browsing it was to be entered in one of the following 4 classes

1- LIGHT- 0 to 50% of stems are browsed

2- MODERATE- more than 50% of stems are browsed but plant is NOT hedged

3- HEAVY- more than 50% of stems are browsed and the plant is hedged (browsed to a small ball of twigs)

4- SEVERE- more than 50% of stems are browsed, seedling is hedged and less than 6 inches tall.

Seedlings greater than 6 inches tall provide best evidence of browsing damage.
Under severe deer browsing, seedlings
may NEVER exceed 6 inches tall and will be severely hedged...deer browsing keeps them suppressed below 6 inches.

Small CURRENT YEAR seedlings may never grow above 6 inches under severe deer browsing.

OKAY .. let's define Severely hedged and take a look at what it means..

Severely hedged---
seedlings browsed repeatedly over years; all stems short, thick, with a "bomsai" appearance...
just like these ----

How did we know what the deer had browsed and not some other animal ?

Remembering that deer have no top teeth they can NOT snip off what they bite..
it's more of a rip or tear... here is a good example of what it looks like where a deer has taken a bite ...

Keeping in mind that the average deer consumes over a ton of browsed materials a year..
let's look at what we found in our section for those 60 deer per square mile (Treasue Lake Area) had to eat in OUR section . Which was one of 6 areas around the Treasure Lake Community that were counted..

FIRST.. I'll tell you what we concluded they survive on after our workshop...

1...The plush vegatation on the golf courses.
2..Resident's gardens, flowers and shrubs.
3..Resident's feeding the deer in their yards.

We also concluded that the herd was almost to the point where it would "crash".
They are going to be straving to death the first severe winter.. There is just NOTHING natural for them to eat. What they are browsing on is definitely non-prefered plants and tree species...


Remember the six species of trees we were looking for in every other plot...
We only found re-genertion in 4 of the total plots we did and Cherry and American Beech were present from that prefferred list..

and you can see they are moderate and low food preferences.

low..Striped Maple/American Beech

These are sample of the seedlings we found in our plots OR ON THE WALK thru the woods almost all of them as you can see are severely browsed...

Amercian Beech

Now these are all NON-preferred (or at best VERY LOW) but were all severely browsed and hedged as you can see .. proving they will eat almost anything if forced to before moving to find new homes in a new area.

other severely browsed species --
Witch Hazel
American Hornbeam (Ironwood)
Shagbark Hickory

and the third one from the left was SO severely browsed it had no buds or other way of identifing it.. 8-)

What We Did/Did Not See

We saw almost absolutely nothing growing in the 6 inch to 6 foot area. You could walk and see at least 150-250 yards in front of you on the entire walk.
Within about 150 yards of some homes we discovered quite a bit of "Trout Lillies" growing thru the dead leaves.
As for new growth of ANYTHING...that was about it except for the hedged species I showed above. There was quite a bit of witch hazel growing in that 6" to 6' area but not much else...

What about Oaks and Maples, preferred species... We were walking on dead red, white and pin oak leaves about 80% of our trip. I found some acorns (pin oak) that were cached near the trunk of a Ironwood tree, Also some Shagbark Hickory nuts and shells in a few spots...

No Oak or Maple trees in that 6" to 6' area growing anywhere.

No new growths from 6 inches to 6 feet of other prefered or non-preferred trees AT ALL were noticed.

We also found no Striped Maple on our walk, which I found interesting because I can not walk anywhere around my home area and NOT find it.

Red and Sugar Maples were present but all in the mature state.. no seedlings of saplings of these species either.

We found several deer trails that were about 1 to 3" inches deep.. definite signs of major usage...

We found a spot where there were wings from a turkey.

Discovered a "scat pile" from a Coyote, which we were told were also on the rise in Tresaure Lake..

We found part of the pelvis bone and the whole rear leg attached (bones). I suggested we cut the bones in half and see what the marrow looked like... we found the marrow was milky white . This means the deer DID NOT starve to death during the winter. Our guess was hit by a car.

Our section was located near the stables and interstate 80 was the border on the other end. We did NOT find any other bones in that area so we all assumed it (the one leg) was dragged their by a predator.

We did not see any deer or wildlife. In fact I never even noticed a bird. The sounds of the woods on this walk were limited to us talkiing or the sound of traffic on I-80...Other than that the woods were silent... another thing I never find around here.

One group found a jaw bone of a deer and it was aged at 2.5 years of age.

Another group said they spotted 10 deer running.. then noticed someone's dog was chasing them.


This was one of the more interesting things or events I have done in the past few years. The habitat impact and all the information on foods and deer's effect on their habitat was what I enjoyed the most.

It definitely reinforced the fact that I need to continue my learning into identifing those things that I see growing in the woods. My ability to identify some trees was increase just because of this one outing and I will contnue to learn to identify trees and plants in Penn's woods.

I saw first hand just how bad the habitat can become if the deer are not controled in any form and hunters are not used to control at least the population of the deer in a given area.

I am so happy I attended this program and I wish to thank everyone who participated in the planning, presenting, and the actual workings of this program.

It will help me in spreading the word about what is going on in our beautiful outdoors and it helped me become a better steward of our forests and allowed me to realize my part as a deer manager...

I hope anyone who walks in our woods takes the time to notice what they are really looking at and understand what the habitat in the areas is really like. Is there re-generation of trees, plants and wildflowers... if not what do you see that could be causing the lack of it..

In short I hope everyone who reads and visits this page will take a little more knowledge away and apply it the next time they walk in the woods...