Each fall many deer hunters head into the woods in hopes of tagging a mature whitetail buck. Hunters sit and wait, sometimes all season, for their target buck to make an appearance. Doe after doe passes by, tempting the hidden hunter to take a shot. Often, the hunter passes on the many opportunities, and remains focused on their primary goal, harvesting a big buck. The truth is, however, adequate doe harvest positively impacts a hunter's chance at harvesting a mature whitetail deer. And, when harvesting does early in the hunting season is the focus, hunters will no doubt see the benefits later in the season.
Here are a few of the benefits and reasons hunters should consider harvesting antlerless deer this archery and muzzleloader season:
Additional nutrients for the herd. A lower population means more resources for deer that remain. These additional resources not only mean healthier deer but, more specifically, better antler development potential the following season. A lower population also means less stress on the herd in periods of drought.
Condensed rut period. Bucks will spend less time traveling, which conserves energy, thus reducing the demand of resources needed. This will allow bucks to enter the trying winter months in better condition, giving them a head start of healthy antler growth the next spring. Further, when rutting is condensed, competition for does heats up and hunting techniques such as rattling and calling can be more successful.
Even fawn drop. With a condensed rut period, fawns will drop all within a more condensed timeframe, which makes it difficult for predators to keep up with the numbers available. Fawns will also be born earlier in the forest growing season meaning more and higher quality forages will be available to lactating mothers and the young once weened.
Fewer late-born fawns. A condensed rut period also helps reduce the number of late-born fawns. Late born fawns, specifically buck fawns, are at an elevated risk of suffering slowed body development due to the lower quality and quantity of forages available as the summer heats up. Research shows that buck fawns facing this nutritional stress can take up to three years to overcome that developmental hardship, which impacts their ability to maximize their antler growth potential during those years.
A final benefit, and one often not considered, is sharing the harvest. The Wildlife Department facilitates two programs, Hunters Against Hunger and Deer Share. Both are aimed at helping hunters share venison with the people who need or want it the most. While you might not need the meat for your freezer, there are people all across the state who could greatly benefit from your decision to harvest a doe, giving you the opportunity to help others while also helping improve your deer hunting.
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