This paper illustrates how age-at-harvest data, when combined with hunter-effort information routinely collected by state game management agencies, can be used to estimate and monitor trends in big game abundance. Twenty-four years of age-at-harvest data for black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus) were analyzed to produce abundance estimates ranging from 1,281 adult females to 3,232 adult females on a 22,079-ha tree farm in Pierce County, Washington, USA. The annual natural survival probability was estimated to be 0.7293 (= 0.0097) for this female population. The estimated abundance was highly correlated with an independent browse damage index (r = 0.8131, P < 0.001). A population reconstruction incorporating the browse index did not substantially improve the model fit but did provide an auxiliary model for predicting deer abundance. This population reconstruction illustrates a cost-effective alternative to expensive big game survey methods.
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Vol. 71 • No. 4