In a story posted to Bowhunting 360, Scott Einsmann ask the question, “why is it ‘only a doe?’” He cites the phrase many hunters catch themselves saying, “It’s only a doe … but.”
The article goes on to make the case that does are trophies too. Keep in mind, Bowhunting 360 is a website that targets young and new hunters. So the article’s message — especially when it’s considered along with the website’s intent, which is to introduce hunting to those who haven’t tried it — acts as a reminder that hunters would serve hunting well by not throwing shade on the achievements of other hunters. Likewise, any hunter who shoots a doe would serve himself well by not offering a qualifier, like, “it’s only a doe … but.”
Einsmann’s message is legit. The process a hunter must go through to actually hunt – get the hunter education requirement, then the license, learn to use a firearm or bow, learn to scout well enough to identify a spot where a blind or treestand should go — it’s a lot. So after all of that, yeah, shooting a doe is an accomplishment.
“There’s no question that a 6-year-old doe is far smarter than a 4-year-old buck,” Charlie Alsheimer told Bowhunting 360. Alsheimer, who passed away last year, was one of the nation’s foremost experts on big bucks and author of Strategies for Whitetails. “Why? Because she raises fawns every year and is responsible for ensuring their survival. She’s always on high alert.”
But here’s the thing: This doe verses buck business doesn’t have to be either/or. Like Einsmann, you can hunt and kill a doe and take pride in your work, but you can also shift your focus to big bucks later in the season when male deer are in the rut.
“To be a good manager of the resources, you need to keep the population in control and keep a proper buck-to-doe ratio,” Alsheimer told Bowhunting 360. He believed one buck for every three antlerless deer is a good ratio that creates a natural balance and ensures a competitive rut. “And that means more active bucks while you’re in the woods.”
When the Best Time to Hunt Does?
Bob Robb, outdoor writer and lifelong avid hunter, encourages hunters to target does early.
“I like to use the early archery seasons as my time for putting does in the freezer, primarily because it allows me to hunt them on food plots in the afternoons,” he said. “One thing I never, ever do is shoot does off food plots with firearms. When you start banging does with guns on food plots, the next thing you know, they don’t visit them during daylight hours any more. By hunting them as you would an old buck, using a silent archery tool, the survivors aren’t bothered at all.”
But regardless of whether or not you choose to hunt does with a firearm or bow, Robb offers three reasons to hunt does early. You can find seven more reasons here, in an article Robb wrote last year for Grand View Outdoors.
Early Season Doe Hunts for Young Hunters
There’s no better time to teach young and/or novice hunters the ropes than on an early-season doe hunt. Because you can hunt afternoons on a food source, they don’t have to get up before daylight, and they’ll probably see plenty of deer and other wildlife. The weather isn’t bitter cold, either. They’ll learn what to look for, how important it is to watch the wind and sit still, and how to wait for exactly the right moment before taking a shot. And if they make a mistake and the does get spooked? So what?? The season is long and we’ll come back another day.
Early-Season Meat Processing
When I shoot does early on, I have lots of time to turn that meat into quality summer sausage, meat sticks and the like. As the rut gets close, I want to be in the woods every free moment I have, which means any deer I shoot then will be frozen until later.
Avoid Hunting Pressure
Early in the season, all deer — including does — have yet to start feeling the pressure that big crowds bring when the orange army hits the woods for opening day of gun season and the rut. And by the late season, does may be as wary as bucks, making them much harder to harvest.
Featured photo: iStock