BIG DEER Discussion: Which Does To Shoot?

Hey Mike, saw the post about fawns and it got me thinking. I know proper doe management is a key to growing big bucks. But is it just me, or is it cruel to shoot a doe with a fawn? Once you kill the mother it is likely the fawn will be eaten by a predator or just die. Whenever I watch a hunting show and a guy shoots a doe with a fawn it makes my stomach turn a little bit. I wouldn't shoot a doe with a fawn because of moral reasons, and I was just wondering what other people think. Thanks, David
I ran this by my buddy Sarge Vasquez, biologist of Jacalon Ranch in South Texas:   
Mike, nice question, the hunters on BIG DEER have a conscience. I actually get this a lot from hunters down here: Which does should I shoot, and what about the fawns?
I tell them to look for older does. On the Jacalon, we try to shoot the sentry does, the old ones that always seem to know what’s up before everyone else. I also ask hunters to shoot “dry” does. For whatever reason these does do not have babies; it might be lack of nutrition, poor choice of fawning area, etc.
I think the moral problem people have in general with shooting does is that we've been taught since biblical times not to hunt the mother animals.
Sarge and I think a lot alike.
I’ve never been all that keen on shooting does. It’s not a moral thing for me, but I was bought up back in the day when hunters shot bucks, not does. Old habits die hard.
But this is a different time, and I obviously understand that killing does is a key element of modern deer management in most areas. I'll add that by the time fall/winter hunting season rolls around, most fawns are big enough to survive if their mothers are shot or die of other causes.
But today when I shoot a doe, it’s a big old gal like Sarge alludes to. If she’s dry and alone, better yet for me.
But I hunt with friends (most of them younger) who will happily shoot every legal doe they can for both management and venison purposes. Nothing wrong with that, and I happily help my buddies drag and clean them.
Now to David’s question: Where do the rest of you fall as doe hunters? comment

Eric Williams's Gravatar Where I hunt in Indiana, most does will have yearlings. Every once in a while you might get a crack at a dry doe, which is a bonus. I will try to refrain
from killing a 1.5 year old doe, especially with really small yearlings, you want those deer around to run bucks. Otherwise, whackem
and stackem, I try to target the old smart ones that ruin your hunting and hide away the old bucks. The yearlings almost always survive, they take up with other doe groups.
# Posted By Eric Williams | 6/4/09 12:51 PM
hanback's Gravatar good point, in TX you can glass 50- 100 deer at once and pick out a big doe, but in tight woods it's harder, pick out a big gal and drop
her if it's legal; in these environments and esp. bowhunters def try to shoot the sentry doe
# Posted By hanback | 6/4/09 12:56 PM
Rodger's Gravatar Thanks for fixing the link so fast, Mike. I'm with Eric. I seldom, very seldom see a doe without a fawn or twins. If I do see one, you can bet the yearling is back in the woods somewhere close but out of my sight. I like to shoot big, old does, too, but finding one is like finding a needle in a haystack. Ever since I've been hunting, which covers almost 50 years, we've been able to kill does legally here in Texas so I have no qualms about killing any doe. The yearlings will survive. I've seen a doe with four yearlings following her around. Two were hers and were treated differently than the others. But I guarantee you they all survived.
# Posted By Rodger | 6/4/09 1:01 PM
Doug In Wisconsin's Gravatar I also have no problem shooting does. I also will shoot a doe that has fawns if not given the alternative to harvest the adult doe. Did it last fall, in fact. In my case, it was two adult does and each had twins. When bow hunting, I would pick out the adult doe to shoot. When gun hunting, it's not always the case here in Wisconsin.
# Posted By Doug In Wisconsin | 6/4/09 1:44 PM
jstreet's Gravatar I've no problem shooting any adult doe. I will try to target the "horse head" does (the older does) but will take an adult doe w/fawns
if I feel it's necessary to the properties I hunt. I won't shoot doe fawns or buttons.

I hunt on one piece of property where the owner absolutely forbids the killing of does. His house, his rules.

# Posted By jstreet | 6/4/09 2:17 PM
ian in wisconsin's Gravatar I was so close to changign ways of my uncles and dad they had finally agreed to try not to shoot fawns or yearling bucks i was amazed...
the good ole WDNR introduced earn a buck. Not only where more fawns blasted than ever as soon as someone would get that sticker the first
yearlign buck that walked in got wasted. WHile this happend im studyn for chemistry with a earna buck sticker in my pocket earned by
passing 3 fawns and the two bucks that were shot to wait for a big doe in all honesty until the WDNR gets a clue and stops EAB for good
most hunters unlike us on the blog are gonna blast the little ones so they can get after "dem Basket Racks"
# Posted By ian in wisconsin | 6/4/09 2:19 PM
Adam Freeborough's Gravatar If I've got a valid tag and a big doe gives me a shot, she's in trouble. If she has does I might take a pass, I might not, just depends on the situation.
# Posted By Adam Freeborough | 6/4/09 2:45 PM
Adam Freeborough's Gravatar oops, I meant if she has fawns, not does.
# Posted By Adam Freeborough | 6/4/09 2:46 PM
Lance's Gravatar Does chase away their fawns when the are in heat. The doe fawns most often join up with other groups and may or may not find their mom soon. The buck fawns usualy travil some distence away before establishing themselves again. I look for the old doe to shoot when there are no good bucks around.
# Posted By Lance | 6/4/09 2:50 PM
Jake in WI's Gravatar I myself try to shoot 1.5 or older does, and I will shoot them if they have fawns. I don't buy the whole dry doe thing. Research has shown that they are very rare and uncommon. If you do see a doe without fawns it is probably because their fawns died somehow, so most of them are not "dry" does. It has also been proven that older does are better mothers and their fawns are often times healthier, so wouldn't it be good to keep them around?
I'm just an average hunter who is happy with any doe I am able to kill cleanly. If there is a bunch of does around me and one of them appears to have no fawns I will try to take her if the shot is right, but I will ultimately kill the one that presents the best shot as long as it is not a fawn.
# Posted By Jake in WI | 6/4/09 3:04 PM
Flatlander's Gravatar i typically get between 5 and 7 deer a year in Central IL. (no thats not being a game hog, we have an abundance, and we eat them all)
i generally like to take 1 trophy buck or 2 if possible (sometimes not at all :( ) i try to shoot 2-3 big does early in the bow season or whenever
the oppurtunity arises. towards late muzzle loader and winter gun season i look for big does (make sure not bucks with out antlers)
and also try to take 1 or 2 doe fawns (at this time of year they are 90+ lbs and are the best eating thing on the planet!!!!)
the management plan is in numbers of mouths to feed and not so much the age class of does...... i like to see the 1.5 and 2.5 year old
does stay around because they have a survivor instinct. the old 3+ does have done their duty and are time to meet my freezer :)
the doe fawns will be the first ones to die to coyotes, dogs, car collisions etc. so i take one or two

balance in everything is important....... i think there is a time to take some doe fawns....... may not be popular but i haven't seen proof to
tell otherwise. that being said i take the bigger doe 80% of the time until late winter...... besides when those little does get bred in Jan. and Feb.
it throughs off the next rut and birthing cycle..... makes for smaller weeker deer also
# Posted By Flatlander | 6/4/09 3:27 PM
csoutdoors's Gravatar I am on the same page as the majority of the "Big Deer" crew. If I get a shot at an adult doe without fawns at any point, she is in trouble. I generally will wait until later in the season to take a doe if she has not chased her fawns away though. To me that gives the fawns a little more time to get educated on what they need to do to survive on their own. With our rifle season generally occuring during the rut and having a late muzzleloader season helps to put the odds of survival in the fawns favor.
I do agree that the EAB programs have to be taking a hard tole on the yearling mortality rate in certain parts of the US though. It would be interesting to see what a state like WI's fawn mortality rate is, anyone have then numbers?
# Posted By csoutdoors | 6/4/09 5:09 PM
hanback's Gravatar thanks guys great discussion, we've got some hard-core doe hunters on here, good job!
# Posted By hanback | 6/4/09 5:56 PM
Sarge Vasquez's Gravatar Kuddos Dean well said!
# Posted By Sarge Vasquez | 6/4/09 6:35 PM
Flatlander's Gravatar Dean that pretty well says it all
right on!
# Posted By Flatlander | 6/4/09 7:14 PM
Russ's Gravatar I can't bring myself to shoot a doe with fawns but if I see a good sized loner she might be in some trouble.
# Posted By Russ | 6/4/09 7:33 PM
David in NC's Gravatar First, the only time I really don't like to shoot a doe is early in bow season if the fawns have spots and are still nursing. Otherwise bow season is a great time to take out some does before the rut - quietly. Once the fawns are weaned, they can survive on their own (although they aren't always real smart).

I do like to take the older matriarch doe when possible for 2 reasons. 1) Researchers have shown that the older lead does are the ones that will chase away young bucks from her territory, so if you are letting a lot of young bucks walk, they may end up being chased out of the area by an old cagy doe. 2) The old does are the quickest to bust you when you make the slightest mistake. I would much rather have a more naive doe leading that buck past my stand.

Has anyone else heard about does chasing young bucks from the area? I used to shoot any mature doe, but now after reading that information, I usually look for the oldest.
# Posted By David in NC | 6/4/09 10:09 PM
Jake in WI's Gravatar Dean, where have you read that? The reason I ask is because I could swear that I have read the opposite with the health and survival of fawns. I want to say that I have read (by either Charlie Alsheimer or Ozaga) that older does are better mothers and because of their dominance have better access to quality food and home range.
This makes sense to me but I've been wrong before...
# Posted By Jake in WI | 6/5/09 3:20 AM
Hat Trick's Gravatar We have been shooting over 20 deer a year on my 360 acre farm for over 5 years now. We still don't have a balanced herd due to a high herd count. We are getting there though as our trail cam and observation data are proving. I am a firm believer in shooting as many of them as you can though to make those old bucks get on thier feet more in search of them. I will be trying to increase my own harvest goal from 5 does to 7 this year and I will be trying to shoot only older mature does. I will be in search of the "dry" doe, but I'm just not sure there are that many of them out there in my herd. I have no problems shooting a doe with a fawn once October rolls around. That fawn will survive and jump back in line with the herd structure I am certain. That sentry doe is teaching the next in line doe to replace her and it is only natural to their structure to take her out and another of the offspring to take over her position. Keep those does in that 3-5 year age range and I think you will start seeing a lot more big deer, we are!
# Posted By Hat Trick | 6/5/09 5:25 PM
Jake in WI's Gravatar Thanks for the link Dean, I will be sure to read it this weekend.
# Posted By Jake in WI | 6/5/09 8:18 PM
Greg Russell's Gravatar I believe your perspective is wrong Dean, for exactly the reasons I mentioned in regards to the D&DH piece.

I`m no white-tail biologist, but I believe I know good sense from popular bunk.
# Posted By Greg Russell | 6/6/09 4:16 PM
Greg Russell's Gravatar I live and hunt in Indiana as well, and have hunted for many years. As for the notion that fawns will "assimilate " with other deer, as in caring for the fawns, that`s just nonsense.

Not to say there`s a thing wrong with shooting does with fawns, quite the contrary, but at least understand that you cut the survival rate for the fawns considerably. Call things what they are, don`t perputate myth, just hunt on.
# Posted By Greg Russell | 6/6/09 4:25 PM
Rhonda's Gravatar I am shocked that you would kill does with fawns. These animals have no chance without their moms. I have a female with twins on the land behind me in NC and deer season starts in a few weeks. I'm so worried for them.
They don't leave her side and would be lost without her. She is the only doe I see out there so I don't think the fawn has another doe to nurse/care for her.
# Posted By Rhonda | 8/20/09 3:34 AM
Zach Proper's Gravatar I shot a doe with four fawns and there were two other mature doe. will those fawns surrive
# Posted By Zach Proper | 9/28/09 6:17 PM
Katy's Gravatar My god I cannot believe what I'm reading. My willie is bigger than yours. Pathetic.
# Posted By Katy | 7/1/14 7:15 PM