Question: “We lease and manage a 2,400 acre property located in southern-central Kansas for whitetail deer. We are in our second year and trying to make some good management decisions, although we are confused about the shooting/harvesting of does. I have a question about shooting does with fawns in tow. fawns. Do you recommend it? Do you recommend shooting doe fawns? A friend of mine says they only shoot barren does and doe fawns. I see his point about lowering the number of does by letting the middle age breeding doe walk, but at the same time allowing for a better fawn birth next year. What would you recommend for our deer management program?”
Response: To answer your questions about doe harvest, I would recommend shooting does without fawns before shooting does with fawns. Most does will have fawns, but mama deer are better (for whatever reason) at raising them to adulthood. My though is that it’s better to remove the does that are not producers, whether it’s because they couldn’t provide enough milk or because predators got their young. Maybe they don’t have as good of judgement when it comes locating places to leave and keep their fawns secure. Maybe it’s just bad luck that their fawns died, were predated. I don’t know, but I do know that if you plan on hunting in the future then you will need fawn production.
If you are attempting to manage the buck part of the deer herd and improve the entire deer population on the property then I would recommend shooting older does over younger does, whether they have fawns or not (but with more emphasis on barren does of course). This is because if a property is continually removing the lesser cull/management bucks then the better bucks should remain out there to do the breeding. Then each year, more and more of the fawns should be products of the better bucks, right?
The above recommendations are ideal, but when whitetail deer get skittish later in the hunting season and you need to reach harvest goals for the property then, honestly, any doe you can shoot will be a good one. In this case, shooting doe fawns is okay to reach harvest goals, but realize that those fawns could be products of good bucks. They could also be products of poor bucks. But from the standpoint of habitat and food availability, removing no deer is worse than removing the wrong deer. Removing mouths from the place will help the rest of the animals for the year to come.
In short, priority should be to remove old does without fawns in tow, then old does with fawns, then middle aged does with fawns, and then finally doe fawns. It will not hurt to shoot some of each, but try to get most of them is those first couple of groups. Whitetail deer management is not only a numbers game, but also about selective deer harvest. Calling the right play at the right time will get you a touchdown, but you also need to make some plays that although are not touchdowns will move you towards your goal.