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What method is best for assessing deer numbers?

I have seen all sorts of methods for assessing the number of deer on a piece of ground. Do any of them work?

George Wallace
No, not really. They are all extremely subjective, very time consuming and contain too many uncontrollable variables to have any genuine validity.

They do, however, provide employment for a few researchers, so it?s not all bad news because while they are mucking about counting piles of crap they might also discover something useful.

Before you accuse me of being either a cynic or a dinosaur, let me mention a piece of research conducted on an island off the Danish coast some years ago.

Having estimated the deer population by every known method, they then started shooting deer to establish the true population.

The experiment was abandoned after they had shot about four times as many deer as the highest estimate, without apparently getting anywhere near wiping them out.

In my view there are three possible levels of deer population on any given piece of land;
1. Too many
2. Too few
3. About right

The actual numbers don?t matter, even if you could count them, and the decision as to which slot the population fits into depends entirely on whom you ask.

The landowner may have one view, the deer manager (stalker) another, and the police road traffic accident people yet another.

So it?s entirely subjective.