Question: “Not sure what to do when it comes to this deer hunting scenario. I have recently started bow hunting again and I am not sure about shooting does with fawns. I have passed up several doe because of this and I am not sure if the fawns will survive the winter if I harvest the doe. I hunt in Wisconsin and the winters can be bad. I would rather see the doe and her young walk and hopefully make it through the winter than shoot the doe and have the fawns die. What is the best answer from a deer management and deer hunting standpoint?”
Deer Management: If we are asking the “shoot does with fawns” question from an ethical standpoint you first have to decide on your own. What you consider ethical may not be what other hunters classify as ethical. Same goes for the decision to shoot a fawn. From a deer management and deer numbers standpoint I could justify shooting a doe if we were trying to reduce the overall deer population or improve the buck to doe ratio.
While I only have experience hunting in southern states, I am not aware of any state that allows whitetail deer hunting before the time fawns are capable of making it one their own. In addition, I am not aware of any state that does not allow a fawn to be taken on an antlerless deer tag. There are no strict biological or moral laws governing those decisions. It just depends on whether or not or not you want to do it.
Again, from a deer management point of view there is no single right answer. It depends greatly on what you have to work with as well as your goals. I hunt one place that has had a serious deer overpopulation issue. On that property, any doe that a hunter can shoot is a good doe. Although we try to shoot the largest in a group, fawns or no fawns, we have also shot doe fawns. Our thinking was that a doe is a doe is a doe. Again, deer are in oversupply on the place.
On the other hand, we have a tract of land that is smaller that has more deer hunting pressure (in the area) and fewer deer. On that property, myself and the other two hunters have found that the deer hunting is better if we shoot middle-aged does. This leaves the old does that typically have better fawn survival to raise some new recruits. We do not shoot many does either, so some middle-aged does make it to be old does. It takes a little harvest management in the name of deer management and helps maintain the overall herd dynamics. Shooting does with fawns or even doe fawns is okay in my book, especially if it’s justified with management. Shooting buck fawns is always a no-no in our book.