by Cole Daniels
I often hear hunters debate the best time to kill does. Most are deathly afraid of scaring off bucks during opening weekend and during the rut so many hunters wait until the October lull or until well after the rut is finished. If that is your strategy, you’re not alone. However, in my opinion, any time you let a doe walk past your stand is an opportunity lost. This is based on the assumption that deer numbers in your area are high and your doe to buck ratio is way over 10 to 1. If you have low deer numbers and a balanced herd, then by all means, let them walk.
In my neck of the woods and in lots of other states, does are plentiful and should be taken. Not just for management purposes but for food and simply for practice. If you can’t hold steady and make a kill on a doe, you’re probably going to fail miserably when a big antlered brute walks by. I shoot does all year long, even during the rut. Having a doe fall near your stand essentially creates a natural scent lure for you. If the temperature is cool, leave her lay for three or four hours. You’ll be surprised at how many deer will walk right up to a dead deer laying on the ground. Killing does in the late season is a no brainer. If there isn’t a lot of food around, you’re doing the herd a favor and putting some meat in your freezer.
But my favorite time to kill does is early in the season. Again, it is an easy way to get a few kills under my belt and prepares me for primetime buck hunting. One of the most disappointing parts of targeting does is accidentally killing a button buck. Early in the season it is easy to tell the difference between a button buck and a doe. Some button bucks still have spots on them early in the season. Either way, they typically run noticeably smaller than does in September. By December, a button buck could be the same size as their mother.
I hate to use the word “dumb” when talking about deer but does are a lot dumber in September than they are in December. By the time the late season rolls around does have dodged as many bullets as bucks have. They have learned what danger smells, sounds, and looks like. If you really want to do some doe killing, early season is going to offer you the closest and most abundant shot opportunities you will have all season.
The biggest reason to kill does in the early season is that it benefits your buck hunting. Fewer does improves buck to doe ratio and makes rut hunting better. If you have a 15-to-1 doe-to-buck ratio there really isn’t any reason for a buck to pursue does. He can literally lay in his bed and just wait for them to pass by. If you want heavy rutting activity, you need to make bucks get on their feet. Having too many does isn’t going to help you.
The emphasis on killing does is something that is fairly new to deer hunters. There is a lot of talk about it these days but back in the 60s and 70s, it was looked down upon. Fortunately for today’s hunters, deer populations are strong in many states. There really isn’t any reason not to put a nanny in the freezer.