Question: “I have a couple of questions for about doe harvest and deer hunting. We are trying to improve the deer herd on the property we hunt. Would you recommend for the guys on our lease to start harvesting the target number of doe early in the deer hunting season or later in the season. We have been told different opinions on when to actually begin harvesting the doe, so do we start right away and continue throughout the season or wait till after we have achieve our desired buck harvest.
Taking out does early means probably shooting does with fawns, although much of what I have read says they can make it by themselves by the time the hunting season rolls around. It was suggested to doe harvest now for the benefit of having less deer feeding off the habitat, bucks would not have to work as hard and, of course, we would not have to deal with an already-pregnant does down the road. On the other hand, would it be better to wait until later in the deer hunting season after the bucks have been shot?”
Deer Management: Shooting does as early as possible is always the very best when it comes to deer management. Period. However, most ranches end up harvesting does later in the season, but only because they want to shoot certain bucks before they start shooting does. Deer, and bucks in particular, are easier to pattern before the breeding season (rut) kicks off in early to mid-November.
Bucks will use the same areas and the same feeders just about every day. Managers take advantage of this by removing the bucks they do not want participating in the rut and harvesting the older bucks that have “maxed out.” Once the rut starts, specific bucks may become difficult to locate.
From a habitat standpoint, it’s best to harvest all deer, bucks and does, as early as possible. The reason is exactly as you stated. Why leave extra deer on the land while going into one of the most stressful times of the year (winter) when food is typically the most limited? From a deer management standpoint, it’s best to shoot all of the deer that you need to remove as early as possible in the deer hunting season. Unfortunately, this rarely works out because of time constraints.
I would not be overly concerned about the order in which you harvest deer, but I would recommend that you shoot bucks with undesirable antler characteristics before the rut and does as they make themselves available. Take advantage of doe harvest opportunistically. If your morning hunt is almost over, shoot a doe before leaving the blind. If you get to the stand in the afternoon and a doe steps out early, shoot her and then hunt the next couple of hours until dark. I would recommend shooting the bulk of the deer before mid-December regardless of the order in which you shoot them.