“In general, our deer herd is doing well with a stable to increasing population in most of the state,” said Cory Morea, Deer Management Program Coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
Most of the state, including suburban and urban Florida. But not all of the Sunshine State is such a welcoming place for deer. Florida does not estimate statewide deer populations. But it does tabulate harvests and there the state did see a noticeable decline last year, with hunters taking some 138,000 deer compared to a harvest of 176,000 deer in the 2010-2011 season.
In 2010 and 2011, Florida captive deer facilities reported significant outbreak sof epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD. So wildlife officials think deer numbers in some locales may have dropped, at least moderately, due to EHD. However, FWC has limited resources to survey private landowners and hunt clubs to get a definitive answer.
Meanwhile, Burmese pythons may well be having an impact on deer numbers, too. A widely reported news story from last year reported a 16-foot python swallowing a 76-pound adult deer–whole! As gruesome and as (understandably) attention-getting as that story was, the follow up story was more important: a study by the National Academy of Sciences that documented “dramatic declines” of raccoon, opossum, bobcat, rabbit, and, yes, deer numbers in Southern Florida, with the python the top suspect.
As USA Today reported, that study found, “In areas where the pythons have established themselves, marsh rabbits and foxes can no longer be found. Sightings of raccoons are down 99.3%, opossums 98.9% and white-tailed deer 94.1%.”
Snakes might not be cooperating, but the weather has. “So far this year rainfall has been adequate to produce good forage in most of the state,” said Morea. As far as bigger deer? “Northern Florida in general,” he adds, “but we also have pockets in the peninsula that regularly produce large antlered deer.”
The Southern Regional Report
It looks like this will be another strong season for southeastern deer hunters, with deer herds in good to very good condition. Deer populations are stable to slightly growing, and all states expected a strong fawn crop this year. The central south (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) saw drought expand over the region as summer went forward. However, this part of the country did receive substantial spring and early-summer rains, which generated a good deal of forage, so deer went into the summer in pretty good condition.
Top Trophy Zones**
AR: Arkansas and Chicot counties.
FL: Alachua, Gadsden, and Jefferson counties.
LA: Avoyelles, Concordia, and East Feliciana parishes.
MS: Delta counties like Bolivar, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo are well represented in the record books. Outside of the Delta, Adams County has produced trophy bucks for the past 50 years, including the current state typical record, a 10-pointer killed in 2010 that netted an amazing 184 6⁄8.
OK: Osage and Coal counties. The latter is developing a reputation as a big-buck county, and that was only enhanced last year when 13-year-old Kelsey McKay shot a 200 7⁄8-inch monster non-typical. It is the largest buck ever taken in Coal, a county well represented in the state record books for both typical and non-typical whitetails.
SC: Orangeburg, Aiken, Fairfield, and Colleton counties.
TN: Cumberland and Van Buren counties, and the Tennessee sections of the U.S. Army’s Fort Campbell Military Installation.
TX: Irion, Kennedy, Maverick, Tom Green, and Webb counties.