Do you remember your first deer hunt that you ever went on? Your excitement level was probably through the roof. It didn’t matter if it was a doe or a buck, you were just happy to see a deer, not to mention harvest one.
But what happens to the majority of us when we get older? As we get older we begin thinking we have to harvest a mature buck. Some of us even seem to get a stereotype that it is “not cool” to harvest a doe anymore, and many seem to even fall for the peer pressure of trying to harvest the biggest buck.
The last few years I have tried to steer clear of that so-called stereotype. Of course, I want to harvest a big mature buck just as much as anyone else.
However, at the same time, I have tried to have just as much fun harvesting a doe as I do a mature buck. In doing so, it can reap benefits to you as a hunter.
While trying to harvest that trophy buck, I have learned that it is not as easy as it’s cracked up to be. One of the biggest factors to being unsuccessful in harvesting a mature buck is the abundance of does competing for the same prize.
When your buck-to-doe ratio is outweighed by does, it makes everything we do as hunters more challenging. For instance, calling deer when using a grunt call to try to lure a buck in doesn’t seem to work to its ability when there are so many does around.
The same goes with using scents and lures. It doesn’t work the way it was designed to if there is doe scent around every corner that a buck travels. It is as simple as this: why would a buck go out of his way to check out another doe, when they’re right underneath his nose. How do we fix that?
The answer is as simple as taking out the competition by harvesting more does in your hunting area. Without the abundance of does, bucks travel more, which in turn gives you more opportunities of seeing them.
Even though I don’t always agree with the Missouri Department of Conservation, there is a reason why we are now only able to harvest one buck during archery season and another buck during firearms season, compared to years past of being able to take two bucks during archery season, plus the one firearms buck.
All they are trying to do is balance the ratio of does. We need to do our part as conservationists and harvest more does.
This past firearms season, I accompanied my dad on a cool morning hunt. We nestled into a two-man ladder stand that sat in the bottom of a wooded ridge that was home to lots of white oak trees. Because of previous success my dad encouraged me that this would be a good place to harvest a doe while feeding on the white oak acorns.
We sat for an hour or so whispering stories back and forth to each other while enjoying hot coffee from a Thermos and fresh fried apple pies that my grandma made us the night before. As you can tell, we were really serious.
However, after our breakfast in a tree, my dad spotted a mature doe feeding behind us a mere 50 yards. I quietly turned 90 degrees while anchoring on the side of the tree for a good gun rest. I squeezed the trigger, thankfully making a successful shot.
My heart was literally pounding in my chest. I even had a bit of shaking going on in my knees from the burst of adrenaline.
After we climbed down and made it up to the mature doe, we began celebrating with fist pumps, high fives, and a congratulating hug from my dad. Thinking back on that hunt, it makes me glad that my dad and I haven’t lost that excitement even when it is “just a doe.”
After that hunt, I came to terms with being OK harvesting does. Especially when a few days later, I was fortunate enough in being able to harvest a nice 8-point buck that was cruising through my area.
Not only is harvesting does a great way to improve your chances of buck hunting, it’s a great way to put some delicious meat in the freezer for your family to enjoy.
And more importantly, as my dad and I experienced on our hunt, it is a great way to get out with friends or loved ones to experience the thrill of deer hunting in general.
I urge you to do just that during this upcoming firearms season.
By Heath Wood
(Heath Wood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)