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Can You Get Too Many Bucks?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION(s): Can you get too many bucks and not enough does? Also is there a size or age doe I should be protecting? We shoot 2 1/2-year-old or older bucks only. From what we see on our cameras and while hunting, we have as many bucks as does, maybe even more bucks.

From everything I read, a 1:1 ratio should be great. I’m not seeing that. The bucks don’t seem to be chasing very much or even traveling as much as I would think. When I had more does (or too many, as people say) we saw more chasing. It seems to go against everything you read about.

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Also, there is not much hunting pressure, so I don’t think that is the cause. I have about 270 acres and more than 100 of it doesn’t get hunted (several sanctuaries). There are a lot of thick areas, too.

I’m trying to do things right, but it seems like my hunting is less productive than when there were a lot of deer. It is four people at the most that hunt here at one time, but most of the time it is one or two of us (weekends is when there might be four of us). This is archery I’m talking about, beginning the first week in October and ending the second Saturday in November. — Mark

ANSWER: Wow! That’s a lot of questions. Rather than answering each individually, I’ll try to give you a summary that should address most.

Theoretically, it is possible to have too many bucks and not enough does, although outside of an intensively managed captive herd, it rarely occurs. In free-ranging deer the opposite is usually true, and the best we can hope to accomplish is a buck:doe ratio of 1:2 or 1:3.

The situation you describe, four guys bowhunting on 270 acres, is probably having little or no measurable effect on deer densities or buck:doe ratio. In fact, if you’re seeing more bucks than does, you should probably consider yourself very lucky. And if you’re only shooting bucks 2 1/2-year-olds or older, it sounds like your herd is in pretty good shape.

As far as reduced rutting activity, it’s really hard to say what is be occurring on your ground without more information. More bucks and fewer does should increase competition. However, so many other factors besides sex ratio can influence the amount and intensity of rutting activity, including things like hunting pressure, barometric pressure, weather and temperature. Some people believe the has an effect, too.

Bear in mind that more is not always better, and this can be particularly true of deer. You might actually see more activity, especially chasing, in areas of very high deer densities, particularly where there are a lot of younger bucks. Part of the reason is simply because there are more deer, but also because these younger bucks are naive and clumsy in the way they go about courting does.

In this situation, the rut tends to be protracted, with both bucks and does expending much more energy. As a result, pregnant does are less healthy entering winter and more fawns are born outside of optimal fawning periods. Individual deer are less healthy, and does are less productive.

I suggest setting up some feeding stations during the off-season to monitor deer activity with cameras. This might give you a more accurate read on both deer densities and sex ratio. As far as which size or age does to protect, we’ll save that for another day.

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