By Karen Brasher
MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center
MISSISSIPPI STATE — As hunters gear up for the Oct. 1 opening day of the state’s white-tailed deer archery season, scientists at Mississippi State University are announcing a new tool to help manage Mississippi’s most popular game animal.
MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center recently launched the MSU Deer Lab website, http://www.msudeer.com. The site is based on four decades of research conducted by researchers in the university’s deer ecology and management laboratory.
Scientists in the lab are well known by biologists and land managers for their studies about white-tailed deer genetics, habitat and population management. The website provides a way to get the research information into a user-friendly format so others can benefit.
“We want to get information out of the lab and into the hands of hunters, landowners and natural resource professionals so they can formulate good deer-management practices and decisions,” said Bronson Strickland, associate Extension professor and wildlife biologist in the Forest and Wildlife Research Center. “The MSU Deer Lab website is comprehensive, offering not only information about the lab but also a section called Deer 101, which is everything white-tailed deer.”
Strickland and professor Steve Demarais developed content for the website based on their research and that of graduate students, as well as questions asked by land managers, biologists and landowners.
The site includes sections on antlers, habitat, breeding season, predators, diseases and more. An interactive section will allow hunters to estimate and predict Boone and Crockett scores based on antler measurements.
“The management section introduces several strategies that will allow landowners to make intentional decisions to influence a deer herd relative to their specific objectives,” Demarais said. “Likewise, the food plots section provides specific planting suggestions to improve deer diet quality on a landowner’s property.”
The section about population dynamics introduces landowners to how deer populations grow and how to manage the populations relative to specific landowner goals, Strickland said.
While the MSU Deer Lab website is new for the wildlife biologists, their research has been gaining attention for some time. One of the lab’s chief collaborators, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, credits the scientists for much of the deer management efforts in the state. The magazine Outdoor Life recently ranked Mississippi seventh in the nation for producing large bucks.
Other breakthroughs by MSU Deer Lab researchers include the BuckScore software, which estimates age and antler size of deer from photographs; the understanding of how land-use patterns affect antler and body size of deer; and the effects of antler-based selective harvest regulations on deer populations.
“As we continue to add to our knowledge about white-tailed deer, the website will be updated,” Strickland said. “We want this to be a resource for landowners but also a repository of knowledge about white-tailed deer.”