Trophy bucks are on the decline. Here are some reasons why you should consider shooting does this year instead of a buck.
Many wildlife management experts have taught us that an ideal buck-to-doe ratio is 1:1, meaning there is at least one buck for every doe. But ask any deer hunter which of the two (bucks or does) they more commonly see out in the woods and they will unhesitatingly say: “does!”
Harvest reports and management statistics confirm this assertion. In fact, in many states the buck-to-doe ratio has a much larger spread. For example, after the 2013 hunt in Utah, biologists estimated that there was an average of 19 bucks for every 100 does. That ratio is a long way off from the 1:1 ideal.
The enormous imbalance in the buck-to-doe ratio is caused by many factors. For instance, statistics show that does are approximately 13% more likely to have a doe-fawn than a buck-fawn. But that small difference can’t possibly explain the near 500% disparity between the ideal 1:1 ratio and Utah’s 0.19:1 ratio. The logical explanation is simply this: most hunters want to hunt bucks rather than does.
The reasons for this desire may be implicitly tied to the history and legacy of deer hunting, but the justifications for it are becoming less persuasive. With an ever-growing hunter population, the need for good wildlife management practices is becoming increasingly important. In the coming decades, hunters will need to do more than simply depend on their state’s suggested harvest allowances.
This reality may be hard to stomach for the die-hard buck hunter. Hopefully the following list — the five reasons why shooting a doe is better than shooting a buck — will provide some consolation.
1. Doe meat tastes better than buck meat.
Admittedly this is a very subjective claim, and the way you field dress and care for the game will probably have more affect on the quality and taste of the meat than will gender. But, biologically speaking, doe meat will generally be less “gamey” because does have less testosterone than bucks.
Many hunters with will argue that bucks and does taste exactly the same. They claim that each can taste great or horrible depending on how the game was harvested, dressed, stored and cooked. While this may be true, those with a more discerning taste palate will tell you that if all other variables the same, doe meat is more tender and tastier than buck meat.
2. Shooting does will produce more bucks.
Image via: Noble Foundation
Many people believe that shooting bucks instead of does will produce more bucks. Their theory suggests that a higher doe population will have more fawns, and more fawns equals more bucks. This harvest strategy works when the overall population is low. However when doe populations grow too large, does begin to give birth to less fawns. And if the high buck harvest continues, their numbers will exponentially decline.
A better strategy is the quality deer management (“QDM”) strategy, which suggests that hunters harvest less young bucks and more does. As the doe population declines, they will produce more fawns per doe. And when this strategy is executed correctly, the deer population is more likely to move toward the ideal buck-to-doe ratio of 1:1.
3. Does are less expensive to harvest.
Unless you full mount your does, you don’t have to fork out all that money to mount it as you would with a trophy buck. That’s money in your pocket to put towards more hunting gear.
4. Better chances of successfully harvesting a doe than buck.
Because the current buck-to-doe ratio is extremely unbalanced in most states, you are more likely to see a doe than to see a buck. And if you are hunting for meat, that’s a good deal. However, if you hunt for the challenge and adventure, you’re in luck too—does are a smaller target. Use the opportunity to hone in your accuracy for next year’s buck hunt.
5. Reducing doe numbers is an essential element of herd management.
Image via: R.G. Bernier
Many states have implemented the earn-a-buck program. The program requires hunters to harvest a certain number of does before they can harvest a buck. This mandate has helped in those states, but it may not be enough.
Fortunately, more and more hunters are realizing that doe harvest is an important aspect of deer management. Unless you have a critically low doe population in your area, consider setting your sights on a trophy doe this year. It’s a great step to becoming a more responsible and experienced hunter.