Mike: Got a cam picture of a small fawn on my Illinois property in August. It is the first time I have noticed late fawning there. Got me to thinking, should I harvest smaller does before the winter so they would not breed late (December or even January) and hurt the quality/age structure of the herd? Or should I let Ma Nature take its course? What is a sound biological take on this? Thanks, Eric
Good question, and it goes to the bigger issue of when during the season should you shoot does large or small-- early bow, late winter (when most people do it) or anytime? I ran it by Dr. Grant Woods, one of America’s foremost whitetail scientists:
When fine-tuning a herd to meet a management objective, consider: If some does are removed during the first part of the season (usually before rut) then there are fewer does for the bucks to expend energy on chasing, breeding, etc. This is a significant point. In addition, the does harvested during early season obviously won’t consume critical food that the residual animals in the herd need for the winter months. Hence from a biological point of view, earlier is better for these and other reasons.
From a hunter-management standpoint, based on my experience most hunters that wait until the end of season to shoot does rarely meet their harvest quota. Hence, progress of the management program is delayed. Sometimes the habitat is degraded more than it can recover in a year--especially true if the primary food source is native vegetation and not cultivated plants to be replanted next spring. In addition, fawns in densely populated deer areas where there is not optimal forage for every deer will not express their full potential for years. It’s just like malnourished young of other species, including humans.
Our crew harvest does as early as legally possible. In fact, we’ve found from many projects that a dead doe in front of a hunter’s stand is a great attraction to mature bucks! I realize this is contrary to popular beliefs. We often harvest a doe, with either bow or firearm, then remain in the stand as long as possible. The only disturbance was the noise of the shot. The smell of the adult doe, especially if she is in a pre-receptive or receptive stage, is a magnet for mature bucks! I’ve personally harvested quite a few bucks while they were sniffing the doe I had shot earlier in that hunt. Hope this helps everybody out, Grant Woods.
Now that is the kind of hard-core information I strive to bring you on the BIG DEER Blog!
BTW, when have you shot your most does in the past? Late I bet. Has this post changed your thinking some?