For many modern whitetail hunters the ideal hunt concludes with a big buck on the ground and antlers on the wall, the idea of harvesting a doe is as foreign as chasing a Musk Ox. But truth be told harvesting does is beneficial both biologically and personally.
When I grew up and first started hunting my home state of Pennsylvania had an unofficial saying among hunters – “If it’s brown its down.” This was because the majority of hunters were only concerned with filling tags, not necessarily spots on the wall. If a trophy buck came along that was a bonus, otherwise anything was fair game: does & button bucks with antlerless tag, mature bucks with antlered tag and there were no antler restrictions. The result was good and bad – high hunter success but low deer populations in some areas and few records bucks. But many of these hunters were looking for meat and a deer in the freezer meant a successful season.
Over time the focus shifted to bucks and then to big bucks. This caused many hunters to let does pass and the biologists engineered a minimum rack size to further promote the taking of only mature bucks. However, while bone hunters saw an increase in trophies on trail camera a growing number of hunters faced unused tags at season’s end. Some hunters even went as far as drawing doe tags with no plans of ever using them just because they thought it was better for the herd to have more does around ear after year.
The truth is taking does is a vital component of the overall deer management program, plus it can be a rewarding experience for many hunters who may otherwise be skunked. Lets take a moment to examine why taking does is a good idea.
Health of the Herd- a given area can only support a certain number of whitetail deer. If a herd goes unchecked it will eventually reach a peak beyond which members compete with each other for food, cover and even water. Once this happens the once health herd usually takes a turn for the worse and either plateaus or even declines in terms of individual size, rack development, reproduction and even overall herd size. Experience a hard winter and a larger than normal percentage of the herd id likely to perish.
As far as the personal benefits of harvesting does they are almost as convincing as the biological reasons. First, there is the fact that doe are usually harder to successfully harvest. Think about it, mature bucks become isolationists but can be easily fooled with scents, decoys and calling especially during the rut. Does on the other hand spend most of their time in groups, which means you have to trick several sets of eyes & noses not just one. Plus, doe are less likely to fall victim to scents, decoys or calling meaning you have to put all your tracking and stacking skills to use if you plan on harvesting one. Plus, if you are a meat hunter does and button bucks are also better table fare, especially during the rut when a buck’s meat is tainted by testosterone and adrenaline.
So you see harvesting does can be rewarding to you and the herd!
Good luck, good hunting!