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Buck to Doe Ratio’s – Why Hunt Both?

The reasoning goes something like this: The greater the number of does in the deer population the better the fawn crop and the larger the herd. However, bigger isn’t always better. According to the Oklahoma-based Roberts Noble Foundation, doe harvest is one of the most misunderstood, yet most important, aspects of deer management. Harvesting does is essential to managing herd health and nutrition, and ensuring the proper ratio of does to bucks is maintained.

Observed ratios often skewed

Sex ratios are a common, and often contentious, topic of conversation among whitetail deer hunters and outdoor writers, many of whom claim to have observed ratios of as high as 10 to 15 does for every buck on a given parcel. Scientists say the biologically-sustainable maximum ratio is roughly 5:1. Still, many hunters are reluctant to take a doe, even when they’re seeing far more does than bucks.

Self correcting

While it varies from place to place, surveys have shown that on average each doe produces 0.83 fawns in a given year. As a result, the sex ratio, as long as sufficient fawns are recruited, gets an annual self-correction. The discrepancy between what scientists say and what hunters see is probably explained, at least in part, by the fact that antlerless deer – including both does and fawns – are often more visible than bucks during hunting season.

Trophy bucks

Of the conditions that need to be present to produce trophy bucks, sufficient age distribution and proper nutrition are the most important. Bucks generally grow larger bodies and antlers each year up to the age of four, and many continue to grow even larger antlers for several years beyond that. If the goal of herd management is to always have an ample supply of trophy bucks, most should be given four years to grow before being taken. Male fawns, button bucks and bucks with smaller bodies and racks should not be harvested.

Sufficient doe harvest

Harvesting does is an essential part of managing deer herd health. Enough hunting pressure needs to be applied to ensure good fawn crops and to keep deer populations in sync with their habitat. All other things being equal, for every buck taken, a doe should be taken as well. This approach will help maintain as close to the ideal 1:1 sex ratio as possible, and it will help ensure the long term health of the herd.