In response to apparent declining mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) numbers in Colorado during the 1990s, buck harvest limitations were identified as a possible mechanism to increase fawn:doe ratios and hence population productivity. Beginning in 1991, the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) reduced buck harvest in 4 deer management units to provide quality hunting opportunities. We examined effects of limited harvest on December ratios of bucks:100 does and fawns:100 does using data from limited and unlimited harvest units. Annual buck harvest was reduced by 359 bucks (SE = 133) in limited harvest units as a result of limiting licenses. Fawn:doe ratios declined by 7.51 fawns:100 does (SE = 2.50), total buck:doe ratios increased by 4.52 bucks:100 does (SE = 1.40), and adult buck:doe ratios increased by 3.37 bucks:100 does (SE = 1.04) in response to limited harvest. Based on our analysis, factors other than buck harvest were regulating population productivity, and limiting buck harvest to enhance fawn recruitment is not justified in Colorado. Limited buck harvest should be considered an issue of quality hunting opportunity rather than deer productivity.
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