Get Outside and Measure the Deer Food Supply


Looking for something to do outdoors this spring? Gotta shed some unwanted pounds put on overwinter? Or better yet, want to satisfy both and get a better handle on what’s happening with your deer population? Consider a browse impact survey.

A browse impact survey involves walking along evenly spaced lines or “transects” through your hunting land and stopping at intervals to evaluate the browse pressure on select deer forage species. This survey method is an additional tool to estimate overwintering deer densities and gives you an annual measurement of deer impact upon available browse. Basically, you are looking for indications that forage and browse (at different preference levels) are in short supply relative to deer density, like the severely “hedged” plant in the photo above. Even worse, that plant is beech, which is generally not a preferred deer forage – symbolizing in this instance something to the effect of “Houston, we have a problem!”

How are the results used by the pros? Typically, organizations, hunt clubs and landowners use habitat impact survey results to help them understand the present condition and relationship between the deer herd and its habitat. Understanding the make-up of your deer herd and its impact on the habitat is actually an essential component of any QDM program.

The results of browse impact surveys can help deer hunters determine if the deer population needs to be reduced, or habitat quality increased, based upon the ability of the forest to produce deer forage and browse as well as trees to replace those that will eventually die or be harvested. Next, managers can keep tabs on the quality and relative quantity of browse as its availability changes from year to year. Finally, managers can determine if regeneration of tree species is of sufficient quantity and of the desirable species to conduct timber harvests.

About Matt Ross

Matt Ross of Saratoga Springs, New York, is a certified wildlife biologist and licensed forester and NDA's Director of Conservation. He received his bachelor's in wildlife conservation from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and his master's in wildlife management from the University of New Hampshire. Before joining the NDA staff, Matt worked for a natural resource consulting firm in southern New Hampshire, and he was an NDA volunteer and Branch officer. He and his wife Sadie have two daughters, Josephine and Sabrina.