Late Season Doe Management Could Pose Problems When Filling the Freezer
It’s the last week of deer season and you have just had one of the proudest, yet scariest moments of your life. Your significant other recently looked at you and pleaded “when are you going to kill a deer”? A tear shed from your eye…a slight sob came from deep within. Thoughts rushed through your mind…”Is he/she really, no it can’t be, no way, should I even dare ask, do they want me to go hunting?” After mustering up enough courage you let a very meek “do you want me to go hunting this afternoon”? Not a second passes by when your mind suddenly forms a terrifying question…”Are we out of meat?” The realization that late season doe management is needed to fill the freezer isn’t pleasing, especially when filling the freezer could pose problems for your future hunting!
While many hunters might revel in the fact that their significant other has just told them to go hunting, the scary position and possibility of being out of venison isn’t pleasing, in fact, it’s darn right petrifying! While late season hunting during the last weeks and days of deer season offer opportunities to fill the freezer, doing so may, in fact, jeopardize your future hunting success…
Why Late Season Doe Management?
Lets be honest, the whole reason the pressure is on you at this moment is because you have passed countless opportunities at some much-needed steaks and hamburgers still walking around on 4 legs. The reason you passed doe after doe is the hope of a rack not to far behind her.
While this may have been a good tactic during October, and even during the sweet November rut, there are no excuses for December. Hunters can struggle with the internal debate of pulling the trigger on a doe, no matter the time of day, minutes left in the hunt, or the freezer situation. There is something “opportunistic” about a pressure free food plot during the last hour of light, a very real unknown of what could step out of the dark timber on the far side of the plot. This drives you crazy to the point of putting some strain on your venison supply.
Besides and empty freezer haunting what seems like every dinner for the past month, another big weight comes from you inner deer manager and habitat manager. It’s what Trail Cameras Weekly calls the “Pile up effect”. The characteristics and facts of the late season that make it one of the best times to kill a mature buck also force the hunter’s hand in being one of the worst in terms or habitat/property management. Either one, two, or in some instances all three factors come together to force a hunters hand at doe management…or at least plants the thought in their mind. Low hunting pressure, quality thermal habitat/cover/bedding, and the presence of a late season food source are the ingredients for exceptionally “well off” property in the late season. It is also the recipe for the pile up effect.
30, 40, 50 + deer in one 3 acre food plot or cut crop field may be alarming for some hunters, yet others consider it as a daily norm. When deer start to pile into to either a spot of low hunting pressure, a warm/thick bedding area, or a late season food source like standing corn or beans it usually spurs some thought towards doe management. The sheer amount of numbers continually increasing as the temperature drops and snow falls alarms hunters into thinking they have a way too many deer. In many instances, you might! The question will haunt you until the post season ( look out for an upcoming blog about deer surveys). Otherwise, can a conclusion be drawn from simply observing food source or bedding area? Yes and no. While it certainly warrants the taking of a doe or two in many hunters’ minds, there are simply way too many factors to consider of whether or not you should practice doe management. Besides figuring out how many deer you have on your property, the fawn recruitment rate, sex ratio, and taking into account habitat/property characteristics and food availability, there are some problems and benefits of practicing doe management this late into the season.
Late Season Doe Management: Problems
Think about what a regular late season hunt consists of. Getting out in the stand or box blind overlooking a brassica plot around let’s say 2 or 3 o clock. Waiting patiently until 4 or 4:30 pm when the first couple of deer start filtering out. Waiting even longer until about 5:15 – 5:30 (or last 30 minutes of legal shooting light) to see what buck might eventually make his way into the plot. Most hunters would agree that this is a pretty solid itinerary for what normally happens out there.
Now, try and think about when you think might be the most appropriate time to shoot a doe. Many hunters would say early in the afternoon, however, many would also say wait as long as possible to see if a buck shows. The problems occur as both have negatives going for them…
- Shooting Early: Button Bucks
If pulling the trigger early in the afternoon sounds like the best option then you might just pull the trigger on a button buck. Usually the first deer out in the plot or crop field are fawns. They are also often alone. By this time in the season they are the biggest (in terms of body) they will be during the first hunting season. So you have one deer out in the field at about 4:00, do you shoot. Unless you have a spotting scope in the tree stand or blind, or a $500+ pair of binoculars you might be shooting a button buck.
- Shooting Late: Shed Bucks
In some cases, one of your mature hit-list bucks, or a soon to be up and comer might have cast their antlers early. There are many reasons this is caused by (hormones, sex ratios, injuries) but the fact is that there is a buck not sporting his headgear! Now you waited until the last 15 minutes of light, a big bodied deer walks into the plot, but you don’t see a rack so you let her or him walk in and start feeding. Ten minutes later and you only have 5 minutes of legal shooting light. Do you know which big bodied deer is a doe or a cast buck? Often times there is not enough light to be 100% certain that blocky head doesn’t have craters on it or not. Walking up on a big mature doe to only seconds later figure out it’s MR. Big without is “valuables” is sickening, to say the least!
Late Season Doe Management: Benefits
With deer behavior and your hunting strategy relying so much on food sources in the late season, one serious benefit comes from practicing doe management…and it often goes discarded! This benefit goes for the early season as well. Both the late season and the early season create a setting in which food is the name of the game. By not discarding the gut pile, and cutting open a doe’s stomach contents you can find out what deer eat on your property. Finding out directly what deer are eating and concentrating on during this time is more valuable than what your trail cameras are telling you in some instances!
The information and stomach contents broken down into percentages of food sources like the video shows means that you can accurately assess where the deer, and more importantly your hit-list buck, might be spending their time feeding.
One other benefit that doesn’t take much explanation is simply using a dwindling freezer supply as an excuse to put as many hours on the stand as
possible. Providing food your family is the basics and history of hunting…You must hunt for your family to survive! While that might be blowing things out of proportion for the majority of hunters, it is, by all means, a very good excuse to keep hitting the woods!
The Takeaway: START EARLY!
While there are some benefits to practicing doe management in the late season, there are also some pretty intense negatives. Next year, instead of hearing relentless nagging and the need for meat from your spouse, kill a doe or two early to relieve your dwindling meat supply. By doing this, you can have the rest of the year to concentrate on killing a buck.
However, if your aim is to use a dwindling meat supply as an excuse to hunt as much as possible in the late season, then you by all terms are a very smart hunter indeed. Just be cautious that this benefit can and might indeed cause you problems later down the road. For more videos and articles like this, and more deer hunting videos and weekly hunting content, visit Muddy TV. Also be sure to check in every week for new hunting tips, tactics, and strategies at the Muddy Outdoors Blog.