Which Doe to Shoot: Fawn, Yearling or Mature?



We’ve all been there, typically later in the deer hunting season: “Which doe to shoot?” Although doe harvest makes up a large percentage of the deer removed from the landscape in each year in Texas, little research had been conducted in past years to help address this question many hunters and deer managers have pondered. A recent study out of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute may offer some solutions when wondering which doe to shoot. Interesting stuff.

Which Doe to Shoot - Texas Hunting

Source: “What does this information mean relative to choosing a doe to harvest? One implication is that young deer appear to be poor mothers. Harvesting mature does heavily will shift the age structure to young does and could greatly reduce fawn production. This does not sound like a problem if your goal is to reduce the number of deer in your herd. However, young deer are not only likely to produce fewer fawns, the fawns they produce may not be the large, robust fawns capable of growing up to be big, productive adult deer.


These findings suggest harvesting at least some young does, including doe fawns, could be a viable harvest strategy, especially because it will reduce the number of mature does in the herd in future years. You may still need to harvest mature does to reduce the number of deer on your property. Aaron and Randy’s findings suggest you have mature does that know how to raise fawns and others that are less successful.

To select for the does that are able to raise fawns, take a lesson from the old rancher tailoring a cow herd to his ranch. Just as the rancher will sell a cow who fails to raise a calf, consider harvesting does that do not have fawns with them. This approach is not perfect and when many does must be harvested, you may not be able to be so choosy. However, given the choice between a mature doe that clearly knows how to raise a fawn and another doe without a fawn at heel, findings from this high-tech maternity study suggest you should put the cross-hairs on the doe without a fawn.”

Ask anyone involved in deer management over the last few decades and these exact findings have been the rule of thumb. It’s been somewhat common knowledge that older does do a better job of producing fawns than younger does. The great thing about this study is that it gives more creedence to what was once thought to be only deer hunting theory. So which doe should you shoot? It’s recommended that landowners and interested in deer management shoot does throughout all age classes. Or as I heard a biologist say once, “Shoot the one closest and standing stillist.”


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