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Buck to doe ratio, What is optimal for quality hunting?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: I have around 270 acres. Over 100 of it doesn't get hunted (several sanctuaries) and there are a lot of thick areas. There is not much hunting pressure.  Four people at the most (weekends) hunt here at one time, but most of the time it is one or two of us.

From what we see on our cameras and while hunting we have as many buck as doe, maybe even more buck than doe. From everything I read a 1:1 ratio should be great. I'm not seeing that. The buck don't seem to be chasing very much or even traveling as much as I would think. When I had more doe (or too many, as people say) we saw more chasing. It seems to go against everything you read about.

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I'm trying to do things right but it seems like my hunting is less productive and there’s less quality than when there were a lot of deer.

Can you get too many buck and not enough doe?  Also is there a size or age doe I should be protecting?

ANSWER:  Wow! That’s a lot to tackle.

First, I applaud you for taking a more responsible approach toward managing the deer, and hunting on your land. If you’re seeing more bucks than does, that’s a good problem to have, and suggests you are doing the right things, and seeing some positive results.

However, you probably can’t take as much credit for that as you might like. The effect of four bowhunters on 270 acres of land is negligible. It’s far more likely you are experiencing the effects of what’s happening on surrounding properties.

To answer your questions, I suppose it is theoretically possible to have too many bucks and not enough does (bearing in mind this is a highly subjective judgement - what is too many?). However, in my experience with intensively managed populations in enclosures, it would take considerable hunting effort and mortality, far above and beyond what is allowed under conventional state regulations. And you would have to be able to control emigration of deer from surrounding areas. In other words, outside a high fence enclosure it’s just not realistic.

If your objective is to increase the number of does, the short answer is protect any doe. Each has the potential to bear offspring the following spring, thus increasing the deer and the doe population. Obviously, protecting prime-age adult does will have the greatest positive affect as they are the most productive segment of the female population. If you still want to take a few does, direct your efforts toward yearlings and female fawns. Even if you mistakenly take a few button bucks, it doesn’t sound like it will hurt your particular situation.

The fact you are seeing less chasing and daytime movement could simply be a function of numbers. Fewer deer means fewer deer sightings. That’s the downside of keeping deer numbers more in line with what the habitat can support. The up side is the deer you see, and ultimately kill, will be bigger, better and much healthier.

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