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Today, many deer hunters agree with the idea of shooting does to improve their hunting experiences but this is usually where their knowledge of this concept stops. The reasons behind this concept are just as important as the concept as a whole. As hunters, if we do not know why and how to properly apply herd and habitat management techniques we run the risk of doing more harm than good to our hunting property and the deer herds on them. We must make smart management decisions that guide our antlerless harvests and gives us an obtainable goal to work towards. Antlerless harvest objectives vary from property to property and are dependent on each properties deer herd numbers, habitats, predator impact, neighboring hunting clubs, and much more. As deer managers, we must get an accurate population estimate number in order to have an accurate harvest objective number! There are four main reasons that explain why controlling your doe herd can benefit your deer herd as a whole:

1) Increases herd health – A deer herd is at its peak health when it is at approximately 50% carrying capacity of that property (each properties carrying capacity is different).  A deer herd that is highly skewed toward does can increase at a rapid rate and reach or even exceed carrying capacity quickly. When is happens disease, starvation, and very poor habitat conditions can over take your property and deer herd. A population that is in balance and not over stocked with does has better access to high quality nutrition. Fawns can be weaned on nutrient rich milk, letting them to grow stronger in less time making them better suited to deal with predation, injuries, drought, parasites, and disease. A property that shoots mature does is much more likely to have a balanced age distribution within their deer herd which is vital to herd health.

2) Increases habitat health- A hunting property that consistently has too many does on a year to year basis will inevitably begin to see a decline in suitable deer habitat. An over abundant deer population, which is the result of too many does, can browse down and eliminate sensitive plant species, many which are highly beneficial and in the “preferred deer browse” category.  By keeping your deer herd in check, and within a population window that fits your property, you insure the dynamics of your hunting property such as bedding cover, native browse, food plot acreage, and escape cover can serve their purpose adequately.

3) Intensifies the rut –The main goal of most intensively managed properties is to shoot big, mature bucks and we all know the rut can be one of the best times to accomplish this goal. By shooting does, we can begin the process of shaping the sex ratio of our deer herd to as close to 1:1 as possible.  A doe to buck ratio of 1:1 encourages a shorter more intense rut on your property. This increase in rut intensity is due to an increase in competition between bucks for breeding causing them to chase, fight, and grunt more often which help your chance at successfully harvesting that buck. Properties with sex ratios near 1:1 are less likely to experience the familiar “trickle rut” because the does are getting bred on their 1st and maybe 2nd estrous cycle instead on the 3rd and 4th cycles that we see in trickle rut scenarios. A trickle rut can also hurt the buck population on your property; Bucks will chase for 3-4 months because of the high number of does and the various estrous cycles, this causes bucks to wear down to an alarming stage and makes them much more prone to predation, starvation, and the rigors of the late winter months.

4) Allows for more high quality nutrition for bucks – No matter what the food situation is on your property, as deer and land managers it’s near impossible to manipulate whether a buck or doe feeds in that particular food plot, feeder, or burn block. There is only so much high quality protein filled food or browse available across a landscape. In order to maximize the number of top end, mature bucks on a property it is in our best interest to make as much of that food available to bucks as possible.  An adult doe will eat approximately 8 lbs of food a day. By shooting just one doe we release nearly 3,000 lbs of food a year that can potentially be consumed by bucks for antler development, fat storage,  body mass and more. Not every property needs to have a liberal doe harvest. Deer herds in many places are on
the decline, and not pulling the trigger on does is one way to help that herd rebound. The only way to have a good idea of the doe population on your property is to have a population estimate (camera survey) of some kind done to guide your harvest objectives. Always have a purpose behind your antlerless harvest plan. Does are the reproductive engines of our hunting property. As you begin to practice good, consistent deer and habitat management techniques on your property, there will come a time that you must shoot does to keep your herd and habitats in balance. Understanding the why’s and how’s of antlerless harvest can make the process much simpler.