Buck to Doe Ratio Management

Chris Pulchny

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When we as; deer hunters begin to think about the “rut”. We have dreams of buck seemingly running around with their eyes closed and their nostrils wide open looking for that next hot doe. But when the “rut” or peak of breeding occurs we seem to only catch a few glimpses of the big boys slipping in and out of thick cover almost just as they were in the early parts of the season if we were lucky enough to spot one of them during that part of the season.

What happened to that idea of the perfect ten to fourteen days of reckless abandon these deer were supposed to go through? Well if this sounds like a familiar scenario to you. You have a problem, a problem on the land you hunt. This problem can be fixed but it may take you doing things you never done or allowed on the property. You are plain and simply going to have to harvest more does.

The buck to doe ratio on your property is out of whack and needs a tune up. This could take years or might possibly be accomplished in one season if you can acquire enough antlerless tags or permits and shooters. As well as make sure that all shooters can tell the difference between a first year buck with no antlers and a doe. First you must try to figure out what your buck to doe ratio is. This can be as simple as sitting in your stand and counting the number of does you see compared to the number of bucks you see, including first year nubbin bucks. Or to be as efficient as possible you can enlist the help of your local wildlife agency and request a spot light count. I’m not sure all agencies do this but the ones here in Oklahoma conduct their own evaluations on wildlife management areas as well as private lands to those who request their help, usually on high fence large tracks of land. You can begin your own counting as soon as the first antler growth really starts to show in early summer. At the current time on my personal hunting area there are already a few bucks carrying pretty impressive head gear and its only mid to late July. Although your numbers counting now may be, slightly different than once season rolls around due to new born fawns that can not be sexually identified it may give you a general idea of where your standing before season. Conclude your numbers once the bucks are shedding their velvet or in hard antler and the young bucks can be identified through physical features, you must decide the number of does that need to be harvested to obtain the ratio you wish for.

To figure this you are also going to need a pretty good Idea of your general herd size, meaning the number of deer that live on your property, or maybe just frequent your property whether it is for food water or shelter. Once that number in concluded the real math begins and you decide how many must be taken to get you where you want to be. The ideal ratio for most people would be 1:1 however it's a personal decision that the hunters on the property agree to. We have come to decide that on our property a ratio of one buck for every three does or 1:3 is fine. This allows us to see deer when we hunt all most every hunt all though they will not all be bucks. This number yields our property a good fawn crop every year and we all feel like every hunt is a great experience. Once the ratio is lowered you will begin to see the “rut” all the magazines and articles speak of. When we first started hunting our property it was almost outrageous how out of balance the ratio was there were nearly seventeen does for every buck or 1:17.

The bucks we did harvest showed the signs of this as well with low body weights and fatigue that was visible. That was due to the fact that after having bread one doe the buck must take off and “service” another countless times a day spread through out a time span that may last months. I personally witnessed rutting activity as late as the first week of February while shed hunting. My uncle harvested a doe with archery equipment the next fall in late October and while field dressing we found that she was still carrying a fawn, when nearly all fawns had been dropped in may or early June, we were unable to determine if the fawn was a living fawn or had been a miscarriage. We undoubtedly lost bucks due to the stress and fatigue of such a drawn out period of time that traditionally should only last a few weeks at most. We soon began to lower the hammer on every doe we could legally take and now some ten years later we have arrived at our current ratio. The body weights of or bucks have increased by nearly 35%.

Every one that a hunt with us seems to get utter excitement out of how effective the use of scents combined with calling such as rattling, grunting, snort wheezes is on our hunting grounds. Also how visible the “rut” actually is, there is that buck running around every day seeming to have his eyes closed not worried about the box blind at the end of the field, or the guy in it for that matter until a thunderous boom lowers him to the ground only to be raised high on a wall months later. Everyone can achieve this if they take the time to do the math harvest the does needed and make sure the young bucks live to help create this type of action. There are many hunter who were raised to believe it was wrong to take a doe but those days are long gone deer numbers are at all time highs, you see them driving down suburban streets eating out of flower beds. If you are a hunter that was raised to not shoot a doe, you I’m afraid will never see a rut like you read about in any publication or see on the outdoor channel. Its only cold hard truth you have to work to get to see an exciting deer season. And believe it or not most times a doe will taste exactly like a buck and sometimes better.

Posted by Chris Pulchny under Deer Hunting on July 20, 09 11:02 AM | Permalink

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