“To improve your deer herd, kill more does.” This statement is one of the ironic principles of whitetail deer management. At first blush, it seems to make little sense since reducing the number of female deer also decreases the herd numbers and the production of future bucks.
Not Common Sense
I grew up in an era of expanding deer numbers when shooting a doe was not allowed on many hunting clubs. As a result, deer numbers quickly expanded and the evidence of over-browsing soon became evident. Browse lines created conditions where seeing 100 yards through a woodlot became common. Every twig within a deer’s reach was devoured. Greenbriers, the hallmark home of grouse and other birds soon disappeared as hungry deer ate it as a winter food.
Doe Harvest, the Down Side
Taking too many does is often a point of contention on public land where most doe tags are filled. State Forests and Game Lands in Pennsylvania suffered this consequence as the state chose to dramatically reduce it’s deer herd purportedly to save forest diversity. Hunters who frequently killed a buck during firearm season, suddenly rarely saw deer. Hunting license sales plummeted as many hunters abandoned a family heritage and controversy over the practice continues today. Critics say that forests haven’t changed due to deer reduction.
Create a Balance
Twenty-five years ago, man was the greatest deer predator and unless a whitetail was hit by a car or shot by a hunter, it survived. With the advent of whitetail disease like Blue Tongue, and the proliferation of coyotes, and black bears, that situation has changed. Today, hunters must consider the entire ecosystem as they set doe harvest targets.
This post by Josh Honeycutt on the Realtree website speaks to doe management and the benefits it can have.
Buck-to-doe ratios are an important part of the rut each year. If ratios are out of balance, the rut will be affected by it. And not just the rut, but other dependent factors as well. Here are some of the ways that ratios can affect the rut (and others things deer related) and why it should matter to you.