Assessment of Hunters and White-tailed Deer of Hofmann Forest, North Carolina

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Title: Assessment of Hunters and White-tailed Deer of Hofmann Forest, North Carolina
Author: Chitwood, Michael Colter
Advisors: Christopher S. DePerno, Committee Chair
Abstract: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) physiology has been studied across much of the species range. However, few studies have been conducted in the southeast and no studies have been conducted in North Carolina. Further, no physiological studies have been conducted in nutrient deficient pocosin habitat. We collected 60 female white-tailed deer from Hofmann Forest, a privately owned pocosin forest managed intensively for timber production near Jacksonville, North Carolina. Using blood serum chemistries and body condition indices, we evaluated deer health in July 2008 and March 2009. During both sampling periods serum chemistries were within expected ranges with the exception of potassium, which was twice as high as expected. Throughout the study, levels of kidney fat and femur marrow fat were within ranges reported in the existing literature and abomasal parastite counts did not indicate heavy parasite loads. Spleen and adrenal gland weights were similar between periods. Our results create baseline data for physiological condition of white-tailed deer in coastal North Carolina and indicate that deer in nutrient deficient pocosin habitats are healthy but may be operating on a low nutritional plane. Also, Hofmann Forest provided a unique opportunity to study how hunting deer and black bear (Ursus americanus) with dogs (dog hunting) contributes to local culture and identity. Hofmann Forest had 9 hunt clubs (~450 hunters) who hunted predominantly with dogs. Employing a qualitative approach, we conducted semi-structured interviews and used participant-observation to immerse ourselves into the social context of dog hunting. From interview transcripts, field notes, and actual dog hunting experiences, we performed a narrative analysis using Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity. The analysis revealed that dog hunter’s identify themselves (called “sameness†) through relationships with other people and dogs. They find identity in dog hunting using family relationships, friendships, by integrating others, and through coping with life events. Through relationships with dogs, they find connection to nature. However, dog hunter identity is shaped also by contrasting themselves with others (called “selfhood†). Dog hunters define their selfhood by contrasting their views on the value dog hunting has to their heritage and their views on the well-being of dogs and wildlife. The differences dog hunters identified provide evidence of how conflicts with still-hunters and the non-hunting public arise. Further, dog hunters exhibited a concern that such conflicts will lead to dog hunting being restricted or banned. Our results contribute an understanding of how dog hunting plays a constitutive role in the narrative identity of this rural culture and suggest that dog hunters might possess a willingness to compromise on regulatory issues which might make dog hunting more socially legitimate. Historically, Hofmann Forest has not managed white-tailed deer. To consider future Hofmann Forest-wide management, an understanding of hunt club dynamics and the deer population was needed. Except for safety rules and suggestions on female to male harvest ratios, clubs have been allowed to set their own harvest rules and management plans. In October 2008, we conducted a survey to determine how clubs currently manage deer, how they view cooperative deer management with other clubs and Hofmann Forest, and what they think about general deer management topics (e.g., definition of a “quality†deer). Results indicated that Hofmann Forest hunters were happy with their current rules but were receptive to cooperative management with other clubs and Hofmann Forest. Further, Hofmann Forest hunters exhibited preference for large-antlered males when identifying “quality†deer and their preferred outcome of Hofmann Forest deer management. Hofmann Forest’s deer population has never been surveyed or estimated. Using harvest records from 2001-2006 and spotlight survey data from 2008 and 2009, we modeled the Hofmann Forest deer population. We determined the deer population was around 3,000 in 2008 and 2009.
Date: 2010-04-21
Degree: MS
Discipline: Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences

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