Using Fawns to Predict the Harvest for Rifle Season

FawnFawns. They taste good, but I generally try to avoid shooting them. The emotional toll it puts on a hunter is almost too much to bear this day and age. Not only will your buddies give you a hard time, but you’ll be just about crucified on the internet.

On the other hand, the harvest of fawns can provide some useful data on the health of the deer herd. Just ask someone who knows what they are talking about if you disagree. Today, I plan to use some of that data to reveal an interesting pattern that might help predict the harvest for future hunting seasons. Once I’m done explaining everything I didn’t know, you’ll likely file this information in your own “Everything I didn’t need to know” category.

I’ve long thought that taking a close look at the male fawn harvest in any given hunting season could be used a predictor for what to expect in following hunting seasons. For instance, if an above average number of fawns are shot one year, I would think that it meant there was a good crop of youngsters, so when they come of age, the following hunting season should be above average too, right? Likewise, if a below average number of fawns are harvested that would indicate a low number of fawns in the herd and a subsequent poor hunting season.

Vermont is interesting because during the rifle season we (I use that term loosely) shoot a majority of 2.5 year old bucks. This means that if I want to try and use the fawn harvest to predict the outcome of a future hunting season I need to look at the fall fawn harvest from two years prior. For example, to predict the 2015 Rifle season I would have looked at the 2013 fawn harvest. Make sense?

To determine whether the fawn harvest or rifle buck harvest was above or below average I compared it to the average of the previous three seasons. For example, the 2015 rifle harvest was 6,502 bucks, which was above the previous three year (2012, 2013, 2014)average of 6,364.

I used the total male fawn harvest from archery season and youth season each year. I did not include the number of male fawns harvested with antlerless permits during muzzleloader season because there are huge variations in that every year since that harvest is determined by the number of antlerless permits allowed.

You know what I thought the outcome would be? I thought you’d never ask. I had figured that an above average fawn harvest would result in an above average rifle harvest two years later. That’s when we shoot all those male fawns that develop into two year old four pointers, right?

By now you are on the edge of your seat! You are dying to know what I learned! I discovered that the exact opposite is true. I also couldn’t determine any reason why, so I think it’s just a coincidence.  But it’s a weird one.

I started with the rifle harvest in 2009 because that was the first year I could compare to a three year average that wasn’t heavily skewed by the implementation of the spike restriction in 2005. The 2009 rifle season was below average, but the 2007 male fawn harvest was above average. That pattern remained until 2012 when we finally had an above average rifle harvest. Two years prior we had a below average fawn harvest. The same was true for the next rifle season. 2014 was a low rifle harvest, but in 2012 we saw a high male fawn harvest. And yes, the 2015 rifle season was above average, but the male fawn harvest was below average in 2013. Weird, right? I guess it’s probably not any weirder than me actually discovering this and knowing that it probably doesn’t mean a thing.

But you have to admit, it is an interesting pattern even if it doesn’t mean anything. And it’s January. What else would I do during this wretched month?

So now you are wondering what the prediction is for 2016 Rifle season. I’ve got good news for you. In 2014, hunters in Vermont shot a below average amount of male fawns. If the pattern holds true, 2016 should be pretty good. I’m going to hold on to that hope for the next 10 months. 🙂 

Tim FaceWho’s headed to the Yankee Sportsman Classic this weekend in Essex Jct, VT? I am, maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll have my favorite four year old with me. He has plans to go fishing in the pool, check out the reptiles, and sit on some sweet snowmobiles. I have other plans –  like hearing the harvest update from Vermont’s new Deer Project Leader. That seminar is at noon on Saturday. I plan on bribing my son to sit still long enough so we attend.

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