Harvest efficiency for white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) primarily is dependent upon the density and distribution of hunters. Therefore, factors affecting hunter distribution (i.e., human habitations) likely will influence harvest efficiency. We compiled rural structure maps for 98 of 102 Illinois counties. Lands within 274 m of rural structures were considered a potential hunter “restriction zone”. based on Illinois hunting regulations. We determined deer-habitat composition within the restriction zone and within each county and then compared it to variations in harvest efficiency. We evaluated the influence of this zone on individual hunter distribution through an aerial survey. We evaluated hunter distances to nearest structures, densities within the restriction zone, and factors associated with hunter presence or absence. Over 4 million ha (30%) of the rural Illinois landscape falls within the potential hunter restriction zone. Restriction zone composition differed from the remainder of counties for forage and marginal habitat classes. Variables associated with the convergence of human development and deer habitat explained a major proportion of variation in harvest efficiency. As rural development increased and protected more deer habitat, harvest efficiency decreased. In areas surveyed, human dwellings reduced hunter use of surrounding areas, thus lowering hunting pressure in the hypothesized “restriction zone”. Increases in human development will make it more difficult to manage deer successfully with traditional methods. Managers will be required to identify likely areas of conflict in which nontraditional deer management would be most effective; predictive models will aid this process.
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