Natural Resources, School of


Date of this Version



Wildlife Society Bulletin 2022;46:e1356.


Open access


White‐tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and hunters on 2 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) within the Chattahoochee National Forest of northern Georgia, USA, significantly declined in number from the 1980s to 2018. Managers were interested in understanding how they could manipulate hunter distribution according to deer management goals. To understand the spatial distribution of hunting pressure and factors driving hunter resource selection, we analyzed GPS tracking data from 58 deer hunters over the 2018–2019 and 2019–2020 hunting seasons. We evaluated hunter selection on 3 spatial scales relative to elevation, slope, and distance from roads, trails, wildlife openings, deciduous forest, mixed forest, and evergreen forest. We incorporated covariates into 6 binary logistic regression models, plus a null model, within a used versus available framework. First, we compared hunter locations to available locations generated within the 2 WMAs. Elevation and distance to deciduous forest had the greatest effect on hunter selection, where hunters selected for lower elevations and closer proximity to deciduous forest. Second, we compared individual hunting bout locations to available locations generated within a buffer around the hunter's starting location with a buffer radius equal to the maximum distance they travelled from their starting location. At the bout scale, distance to wildlife openings and elevation were the most important drivers of hunter selection; hunters selected areas closer to wildlife openings and higher elevations. Third, we compared individual hunter stand locations (used) to randomly selected locations along the hunter's travel path (available). Only distance to roads and deciduous forest were significant in explaining hunter selection of stands. Hunters chose locations farther from roads and closer to deciduous forest relative to their travel paths. Mapping our WMA‐scale results revealed that only 5% of the total WMA area contained a greater relative probability of hunter selection compared to the probability of non‐selection. Our results suggest that vast refuge areas for deer likely existed on the WMAs during our study period. Manipulating hunter distribution is not necessary to aid in sustaining deer on either WMA at this time.