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Harvesting antlerless deer #8947801 11/01/23 08:27 PM
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Texas Dan Offline OP
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Always lots of discussion here about what and when to harvest a buck but far less about the best approach at harvesting antlerless deer. It's a discussion that can take several paths and with many different opinions, from when is the best time to shoot them, how to determine how many need to be taken, and which ones to take or leave alone.

The photo below shows two deer that I will always give a pass. I've heard it said many times to justify taking a doe with obvious offspring that the younger deer "will make it". While there may be at least some truth to that, I've seen far too many yearlings and fawns walking around lost after the first week or two of the season to believe these deer are not far more venerable to predators. I've sat and watched yearlings wander about in a pasture for an hour or more as if they're waiting for you their mother to come and find them. It's for this reason that old does that have no other deer with them stand at the top of my antlerless harvest list. I've even heard some hunters refer to these does as "barren" but can only assume some does grow so old they can't match the reproduction rates of younger deer. And then there's the issue of does that serve as the matriarch of a group of does who are often the first to detect the sight and/or smell of a nearby hunter. While some might choose these as the first to shoot for the annoyance they can create, a case could be made these deer help ensure the safety of the other deer in the group from natural predators. Mix in a little of the mantra that the road to bigger bucks is to shoot more does and you have the makings of a discussion where opinions can be anything but alike.

[Linked Image]

Last edited by Texas Dan; 11/01/23 08:35 PM.

"Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons."
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947840 11/01/23 09:28 PM
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Man, you really opened a can of worms with this one ... popcorn popcorn popcorn

You make very valid points in all areas across each reason to OR not to shoot. A similar topic that can cloud things even more is waiting until really late in the season when most does are bred and the thought of one shot kills 2-4 deer from next year ... cheers

but to take a stab from my perspective, a lot has to do with population and ratio on a given property along with size of property and surrounding properties management (or lack thereof) plans.

I typically will watch for a mature doe that doesn't have fawn(s) tagging along ... it's possible she is past the point of putting off and protecting her offspring. That's usually the one I will take if given the chance.


"everyone that lives dies but not everyone who dies lived..."

~PMK~
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947853 11/01/23 09:49 PM
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I have seen yearlings come in with their mama and stick around way longer and then wander off only to come back, and wander off and come and go with different doe groups. Somehow I don't think these yearlings are any worse for the wear.

I typically do not shoot a doe with fawns. But if you are going to shoot doe with fawns, the mindset of shooting the does with the smallest fawns is probably well headed advice....the smaller fawns will always be behind in their age class. They will struggle thru winter and some won't make it out of winter. So taking a doe with young fawns is a good method to reduce the doe population if you need to take doe.

The other thought process is taking doe late. Most will be pregnant but by then the fawns have several months under their belts and will be fine.

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947854 11/01/23 09:51 PM
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My hierarchy:

Any older dry doe
Sizable yearling doe
Older doe with one large fawn
Older doe with two large fawns
Older doe with one small fawn
Older doe with two small fawns

Preferably I never get past the second or third level. Biologists have always told you it doesn’t matter because they want mouths removed.IMO it permanently stunts fawns if you shoot their mother. Even if they are no longer nursing, they still need a leader/teacher. I killed one last year by accident and the fawn stayed in the same 100 acre pasture the rest of the year.


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Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947856 11/01/23 09:55 PM
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I got a pair just like that coming around regularly that I’ve been passing on. You should too. Needs more time to learn and survive Winter. Another nice one is tagging along; but she just got bred by a big wide 10 point resident buck that’s on the list for next year. Like to see that gene will remain, so I gotta find a different set of does. Hoping rifle season sends some more does my way.

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947858 11/01/23 10:01 PM
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The coyotes keep the doe population in check here so I don’t shoot them.

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947875 11/01/23 10:18 PM
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I shoot every doe I see. If it is with fawn in early season I will probably give it a pass til the fawn is a month or two older. We get 20+ doe tags each year and those are tough to fill

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Double AC] #8947878 11/01/23 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Double AC
I shoot every doe I see. If it is with fawn in early season I will probably give it a pass til the fawn is a month or two older. We get 20+ doe tags each year and those are tough to fill


Ditto. Nature's a bitch. We're their least worry. Suck it up Buttercup.


...and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. Gen. 1:28
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947882 11/01/23 10:25 PM
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Shooting them early is best for the habitat and leaves 8-10 pounds per day of first or second choice browse per day intact going into winter. Where I hunt the does with little bitty fawns are almost always yearling does bred late. I give them a pass. If I can see the doe has a big bag it probably has a little one sucking and give them a pass. Beyond that I look for a grown doe, even though I much prefer to eat a yearling.


Smokey Bear---Lone Star State.
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947885 11/01/23 10:32 PM
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we cull many does most years. This year 55 does on 9000 acres is what we will take. We let the does with fawns walk but that leave many more that we can take. IMO culling out does is one of the best management tools there is.


You can't fix stupid
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947898 11/01/23 10:52 PM
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Biologist says take fifty doe, we take fifty doe!


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Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947908 11/01/23 11:12 PM
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I’m hunting in a one buck county where 5 does can be killed or 1buck and 4 does. Last weekend we saw 19 young bucks and 6 does. We’ll kill at least 6 does and 2 bucks this year. I don’t know why Fisher county doesn’t up the buck tags?

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947910 11/01/23 11:13 PM
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We follow the biologist as well. we have 30 plus doe tags this year and 20 plus management buck tags along with 15 trophy buck tags going to be busy this year. up

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947924 11/01/23 11:30 PM
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I am a meat hunter. A legal doe will always cause me to set up the shooting sticks.


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Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947926 11/01/23 11:35 PM
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Here's the link to a very good read on doe reproduction rates relative to deer density and carrying capacity.

Consider the following...

When deer populations are low, and body condition is good, all four of these doe age classes will contribute fawns to the population. But as deer density increases, fawn reproduction stops and yearling reproduction decreases. As the deer population moves closer and closer to carrying capacity, 2-year-old doe reproduction and then > 3-year-old doe reproduction begins to decline rapidly.

This would appear to indicate that hunters can learn much about deer densities in a given area by making simple observations of doe and fawn groups.

Link

Last edited by Texas Dan; 11/01/23 11:36 PM.

"Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons."
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8947987 11/02/23 01:22 AM
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I look for a big lone gray colored one if the freezer isn't full.

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: scalebuster] #8948015 11/02/23 02:04 AM
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Originally Posted by scalebuster
I’m hunting in a one buck county where 5 does can be killed or 1buck and 4 does. Last weekend we saw 19 young bucks and 6 does. We’ll kill at least 6 does and 2 bucks this year. I don’t know why Fisher county doesn’t up the buck tags?


Our doe limits aren't that generous, but I hunt an area where we see many more bucks than doe. We just don't shoot doe, we shoot young bucks when the opportunity arises.The problem we're starting to see now is not many with at least one unbranched antler. Good sign for the health of the herd and all, sux for the health of my freezer.


Tolerance is the virtue of a man without conviction.

The end of the world began the day it was created, and life is a sexually transmitted terminal disease.


Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: QuitShootinYoungBucks] #8948161 11/02/23 12:15 PM
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Originally Posted by QuitShootinYoungBucks
My hierarchy:

The doe that stomps and snorts
Any older dry doe
Sizable yearling doe
Older doe with one large fawn
Older doe with two large fawns
Older doe with one small fawn
Older doe with two small fawns

Preferably I never get past the second or third level. Biologists have always told you it doesn’t matter because they want mouths removed.IMO it permanently stunts fawns if you shoot their mother. Even if they are no longer nursing, they still need a leader/teacher. I killed one last year by accident and the fawn stayed in the same 100 acre pasture the rest of the year.


Added one to your hierarchy

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8948184 11/02/23 12:44 PM
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Down in south Texas they told us to shoot the doe then shoot the fawns.

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: QuitShootinYoungBucks] #8948185 11/02/23 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by QuitShootinYoungBucks
I killed one last year by accident and the fawn stayed in the same 100 acre pasture the rest of the year.


I'm sure the main reason why I don't shoot does with fawns and yearlings is because I remember the time several decades ago when I shot a doe that had stepped out into an old logging road. As soon as I hit her, a spotted fawn that I couldn't see bolted across the road behind her. And the poor thing hung around while I drug the doe out and was still in the area the next time I hunted the same spot. I don't enjoy killing deer or consider myself that close to starvation to need meat that bad. Now I wait until I'm sure a doe is alone or only has other mature deer with her before taking her.

Last edited by Texas Dan; 11/02/23 12:49 PM.

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Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: ChrisB] #8948193 11/02/23 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by ChrisB
Down in south Texas they told us to shoot the doe then shoot the fawns.


Really nothing wrong with killing a doe fawn. Your shooting does to get mouths off the pasture. An older doe will usually carry a healthier fawn than a yearling doe that is pregnant for the first time. So the doe to really keep is the older doe, not the younger one


For it is not the quarry that we truly seek, but the adventure.
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8948214 11/02/23 01:20 PM
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As the deer population moves closer and closer to carrying capacity, 2-year-old doe reproduction and then > 3-year-old doe reproduction begins to decline rapidly.

That's something to think about.


"Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons."
Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8948226 11/02/23 01:42 PM
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When I am told to shoot does, I wait for some to walk out and shoot the biggest one.


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Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: tlk] #8948227 11/02/23 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by tlk
we cull many does most years. This year 55 does on 9000 acres is what we will take. We let the does with fawns walk but that leave many more that we can take. IMO culling out does is one of the best management tools there is.


Same here. My two buddy's get 20 doe tags each year for me to cull. It's a great way to control the carrying capacity of your land, provide some great meat to needy people, test bullets, scopes, and rifles.

Re: Harvesting antlerless deer [Re: Texas Dan] #8948230 11/02/23 01:50 PM
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Some does appear to be alone because bucks have chased the fawns off. Once the rut starts there are a lot of does/fawns stumbling around looking like they are lost. If you are in a high deer density area even on a small place, killing does is like digging a hole in the sand. The hole will be full by the time next hunting season rolls around. If definitely helps disperse the deer, as new bucks will follow new does into an area where a lot of does have been taken. We killed 35 does off of our place north of Junction one year. It changed the doe population obviously, but we saw new bucks the following year, which is also pretty obvious. Odd that toward the end of taking 35 does off our place that the does actually became adjusted to seemingly knowing they were being hunted. They were overly cautious like never before and took off at the smallest provocation.


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