10 Lessons I’ve Learned While Doe Hunting

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

(Chantal Honeycutt photo)

I’m not just a trophy hunter. I deer hunt primarily for meat. Sure, I save my buck tag for a good ‘un. But my doe tag(s) are spent each season on mature, freezer-filling slick heads. And I’ve learned a lesson or two from the “nannies” while doing it. These are the top 10.

1. Really mature does can be just as hard as mature bucks to kill. Don’t underestimate them. They can and will spoil your hunt. Don’t think for a second that you’ll get away with more movement, noise or scent just because you’re hunting a doe rather than a mature buck.

2. Does are often warier than bucks during the rut. Most of the time, if I get busted in November, it’s an old doe that picks me off. Not a mature buck. In fact, there’s been numerous instances where a buck walked directly downwind and never smelled me. But a doe did. Keep that in mind when a doe is milling about in front of you.

3. Balancing the buck-to-doe ratio will make your buck hunting better during the rut. You need a 1:1 or 1:1.5 ratio. If it’s skewed very heavily, you won’t see much chasing activity. Bucks won’t have to search very hard to find receptive does.

4. Target the younger (1½-year-old) does for the best-tasting meat. Does that have been nursing fawns all summer and fall will have much tougher meat, as a significant percentage of nutrient intake goes to the fawns. Not the doe.

5. First, I don’t shoot early season (September or early October) does that have fawns. But, once the fawns are old enough to live on their own, does with more fawns are easier to kill. Why? They often seem to fall in line with the fawns' habits and get dragged out into the open sooner than does without fawns.

6. Target the least-productive does to increase deer density. Does without fawns either didn’t successfully breed or didn’t protect their young very well. It’s that simple. So, to increase the deer density, it’s better to shoot non-productive does than those that are good mothers and raise up fawns to maturity.

7. Sometimes you have to kill the old doe to keep a spot unpressured. Especially if she’s already busted you before. I promise, if an old doe busts you, she’ll look up into that tree every time she passes through there. It’s happened to me before. You either have to kill that doe or find a new tree to sit in.

8. Mature does will choose strategic bedding and feeding locations, too. They don’t bed and feed randomly. Every step is calculated and done for a reason, just like with mature bucks.

9. You can kill too many does. Always be responsible with the resource and never take too many deer off a property. A few seasons ago, I caught wind that a large family — that hunted a neighboring property — took nearly 20 deer off of a 200-acre tract in one season. Based on the deer density at that time, they killed way too many. And when the landowner found out, they weren't allowed on the property ever again. Be responsible.

10. Does allow you to keep hunting. Most states only allow one buck tag. However, many of those same states offer multiple doe tags. If you have the need for the meat, and the deer population can handle it, taking multiple does is fun, puts more venison in the freezer, and it keeps you in the field longer. All great reasons to sit in a tree.

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