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Effects of Post-Rut Doe Harvest

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: What effect does harvesting does after the rut have on deer population and buck-to-doe ratio? -- Seth O.

ANSWER: A lot depends on existing conditions. If your herd is overpopulated, removing does any time will have a positive effect. Even a healthy, well-balanced herd should be able to withstand a certain level of post-rut doe mortality with minimal negative effects.

Effects of Post-Rut Doe HarvestThe goal is to reduce the herd prior to the period of least food availability - winter - which means more food will be available for those that do survive.

In a herd with well-balanced age and sex ratios, most adult does will likely be impregnated during the first rut, but a few adults and some younger does may be bred during the second rut.

Healthy adult does will typically carry two fetuses, so removing an adult doe after the rut has the net effect of removing three deer from the following year's herd. Again, healthy herds should be able to tolerate this with few, if any, ill effects.

To an extent, hunting mortality is compensatory, meaning things tend to balance out. Some deer, especially fawns, will be lost to natural causes, such as disease and predation.

Removing deer by hunting means fewer will succumb to natural mortality. In areas of dense predator populations or high hunting pressure, predation and hunting mortality can be additive, meaning more will die than might be expected without these extrinsic factors.

Now let's talk about sex ratios. Because most hunting pressure is directed toward bucks, the sex ratio tends to be skewed toward does anyway, though usually not to the extent most people think.

Most hunters consider all antlerless deer to be does, when in fact, roughly half of all fawns are bucks. Most herds are well within the 2:1 - 3:1 range, and mathematically, you can't get much more than 5:1 outside of extremely intensive management inside an enclosure.

You want to keep the buck-to-doe ratio as close to even as possible. And, because most of you are probably concentrating your efforts on bucks, taking out a few more does - either before or after the rut - will only help.

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