Bob Humphrey is the Biology & Deer Behavior field editor for Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine and holds similar titles with other major hunting publications. He currently lives in Maine with his wife and two children. For more information about Bob, visit his website at www.bobhumphrey.com.
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Doe Harvest Dilemma
I don’t want to harvest does during the rut when bucks are chasing!
QUESTION: Bob, I have a doe harvest dilemma. In Alabama, I’m still getting trail camera photos of spotted fawns in mid-October. By the end of the season, the fawns are self-sustaining, but the rut is in full swing and I don’t want to shoot a doe when that big boy might be close behind. What is your suggestion for the best time to thin doe numbers? — Rocky S.
ANSWER: Much depends on each hunter’s objectives and location. The info you provided helps in offering some suggestions for your region.
If your overall objective is simply thinning the herd, shoot does whenever you can. However, in areas with a late rut, such as much of Alabama and the Deep South, fawns are often very young in October and there’s a possibility they won’t survive if you shoot does at that time.
As for the rut-time harvest, shooting does could work for or against you.
Culling early-season certainly reduces the number of does available for breeding, but it might also increase the competition for remaining does during the rut. That, in turn, might result in a shorter but more intense rut.
Another factor is energy. Deer, especially bucks, expend a lot of energy during the rut. Cull early and that’s one less doe the bucks will have to expend energy on.
If you cull does after the rut you’re removing the doe as well as whatever energy a buck might have expended chasing, fighting off rivals and breeding her.
So, there are pluses and minuses to consider no matter when you choose to shoot does in many areas of the Deep South.
Editor’s Note: As a longtime leaseholder in Alabama’s Black Belt region, my hunting club ran into the same dilemma. We chose to harvest as many does as possible early in the season and even had designated “doe days.” These are fun social events and a great time to bring guests. Our instructions are for each member to try to harvest two does, and we give prizes for the biggest doe, which the younger hunters delighted in. Our objective is to thin doe numbers in as short an amount of time as possible in order to cut down on extended periods of time with heavy gunshot activity, causing our deer to go nocturnal. We have our does harvested before the rut kicks in, because no club member wants to shoot a doe while a buck might be chasing it!
— Buckmasters Online Editor/Tim H. Martin