Hunting for Trees’ Sake
Researching Hunting’s Effects on Deer Browsing

Research Issue

Fencing around study area to keep deer out.

Since the time of wilderness champion Aldo Leopold 70 years ago, researchers and Leopold himself noted that overpopulated deer herds could have a detrimental effect on forest regeneration. But on tribal lands, such as those of northeastern Wisconsin’s Menominee Indians, subsistence hunting was thought to be sufficient in keeping deer numbers in check and allow young seedlings to thrive. At the request of Menominee Tribal Enterprises, the business arm of the Menominee Tribe, scientists from the Northern Research Station are testing this assumption and studying whether browsing deer could still negatively affect young forests in heavily hunted areas.

Our Research

Northern Research Station researchers and Menominee Tribal Enterprises staff are collaborating on a 10-year study to test the impact of deer browsing on tribal lands. Researchers will monitor seedling growth within fenced and non-fenced areas both on and off tribal land. Researchers will note seedling survival rates, growth, species diversification, and overall forest densities within the research area.

Expected Outcomes

Although researchers have seen evidence of deer browsing, it’s unclear whether browsing is changing tree seedling densities or diversity. It is hoped by the conclusion of the study foresters will better understand the impact of deer browsing on lands both heavily hunted and otherwise.

Research Results

Kern, Christel C.; Schoelch, Manfred; Crocker, Paul; Fellman, Dean; Marsh, Angela; Mausel, Dave; Pecore, Marshall; Phillippi, Joseph; Waukau, Ronald; Waupochick, Anthony. 2017. Group opening outcomes, sustainable forest management, and the Menominee Nation lands. Journal of Forestry. 115(5): 416-424. https://doi.org/10.5849/jof.2016-092.

Research Participants

Principal Investigator

  • Christel Kern, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Research Forester

Research Partners

  • Last modified: March 9, 2020