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How many does to take?

Bassattackr

Active Member
I've been thinking about this for some time, and Skip's posts about mortality and losing bucks to fighting got me thinking further. How do you all figure out how many does to take in a given season?

One of our properties is in central MO (60 acres), surrounded by a road on 2 sides and another 240 ac neighbor (good friend of mine) on the other two. So we have a total of 300 acres, we work together on harvest, habitat, etc.. Taken one buck (Mature 9 pt) and 4 does off the 300 acres this year. However seeing more doe & fawn numbers than ever before.. Also, FWIW most bucks that spend fall on us spend summers elsewhere. A doe / fawn factory in spring thru summer but a buck "importer" in fall, winter.

Finally to a point where we're happy with deer numbers but starting to wonder if things are being tilted too far in other direction? 1) Didn't see near the number (or size especially) of rubs on our properties this year and 2) Between 3 hunters, didn't see a single cruising buck the entire rut. Could be outside factors as to odd 2021 year as discussed in other threads..

I've heard different indicators on this:

- Trail Camera Surveys (Count bucks vs does) - Mixed thoughts on this.. Could be seeing same doe group in field every evening vs. traveling bucks. Hard to say concrete numbers..

- Food Plot Pressure (Mowed lawn vs good lush growth) - I think this is a great indicator for total deer count, but again hard to discern buck vs doe use.

- Hunting / Observation - Seems like this is one of the better ways to tell, although could change throughout the season with rut, pressure, etc.

What method(s) do you use to determine how many does to take each year? What do you think has worked best?
 

Daver

PMA Member
We have a fair sense of how many deer are staying on our place and adjust our doe take accordingly, but I could not call our process "scientific" by any means. :) As best as I can I try to gauge it by whether I think there is enough food present to last through the winter without a mass exodus to greener pastures and/or suffering from hunger.

We try to target adult does to limit the population and let the younger deer grow up some. To that point...we had enough success taking out adult does this fall that when I was hunting this past weekend with the idea of cracking one or two more...I had a bit of challenge to have adult does show up, as the field was filling up with fawns...fawns that I am pretty sure had been orphaned via our hunts earlier this fall. :)

So, finally one adult doe came out and I cracked her, at which point all other deer present in the field were either young antlered bucks(2) OR fawns, about 10 of them. :) I then did go ahead and shoot one of the young ones later on because it had a significant injury to one of its' legs. Overall deer numbers seem OK at our place, but I am seeing fewer of them when I am driving to and from than normal.
 

Bassattackr

Active Member
As best as I can I try to gauge it by whether I think there is enough food present to last through the winter without a mass exodus to greener pastures and/or suffering from hunger.

I agree Dave. Plot pressure is my "current method" on what seems to be the best approach for total numbers.

Albeit hard to say when it comes to buck to doe ratios though. Maybe observation is our best friend here.
 

Rous14

Active Member
Interesting question and one that I was just literally having with a friend of mine...

Admittedly I’m probably a weird outlier on this subject and I understand that my philosophy goes against the grain of popular sentiment in the hunting community. And certainly a farmer or auto insurance exec would want to punch me lol. But the question I feel like that should be getting asked that I never see is how do I/we increase the number of B&C bucks (or bare minimum how do we increase the number of mature bucks) on a farm or a given area? Would be curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on how to do that. And I totally get not everyone cares about antler size, my only thought has always been that if we increase the number of mature bucks then the number of bucks of all ages is higher and so we’re all happy.

Imo, there’s only two ways to do that that I’m aware of. 1 is to obviously let younger bucks live but we all know we can’t control our neighbors, don’t all live in a great “management” neighborhood etc... The other way imo is to obviously increase the total number of bucks of all ages on a farm or given area. Only way to do that is to not shoot does (in some areas) or to bare minimum greatly reduce the harvest of does (in other areas). We’ve not shot a single doe on our farm in the 4 years we’ve owned it. To Davers point above, the only reason we would choose to do so in the future is if we felt like he said that there were signs of starvation or some other serious health issue. I just don’t think that in most midwest states that there’s a single deer dying of starvation. The habitat, especially with all the food plotting going on now compared to 20 years ago, can support significantly higher deer numbers. Maybe not in all places but most places.
 

Daver

PMA Member
... I just don’t think that in most midwest states that there’s a single deer dying of starvation. ...
I cannot be sure of the exact cause of death, but I do know that we found multiple dead deer this spring apparently due to the very tough winter. Almost all were fawns, so my assumption was that they lacked the body fat/vitality to survive a tougher than normal winter.

I would add that I think that you are only going to get so many older bucks to live together on the same "x" acres. Once it is clear who the dominant buck(s) is/are...others seem to filter over to adjacent properties for the most part. And...then...once the dominant buck goes down, it sure seems like some of the next tier of bucks "come back" home.
 

Rous14

Active Member
I cannot be sure of the exact cause of death, but I do know that we found multiple dead deer this spring apparently due to the very tough winter. Almost all were fawns, so my assumption was that they lacked the body fat/vitality to survive a tougher than normal winter.

I would add that I think that you are only going to get so many older bucks to live together on the same "x" acres. Once it is clear who the dominant buck(s) is/are...others seem to filter over to adjacent properties for the most part. And...then...once the dominant buck goes down, it sure seems like some of the next tier of bucks "come back" home.
On the fawns, I wonder if some of the really late dropped fawns each year are the ones that end up dying? I always see some fawns during November that look like they were just born 30 days prior (I know they probably weren’t literally). Just tiny compared to most fawns. Maybe those are the ones that will struggle through a winter almost no matter what? Not sure. I’ve not experienced finding fawns in the spring or at least not that I would have attributed to starvation but maybe I’m wrong.

And I agree that when you drill down to a specific farm level, a given farm can only hold so many mature bucks, you can’t “stockpile them” per se. But the “best neighborhoods” in Iowa or Illinois are the best neighborhoods for a reason....they have more big bucks than most neighborhoods. So in theory 90% of the hunting areas in IA and IL could hold or have more mature bucks imo. And again only way to make that happen for folks already letting young bucks pass is to increase the numbers of them right?

I think my farm could hold another 3-5 mature bucks personally. Nothing scientific to base that off just my opinion. Daver would you say that your farm is at its saturation point of holding mature bucks?
 

Bassattackr

Active Member
Rous - You're heading to my ultimate question.. By increasing the sheer number of deer in general (even if the buck to doe ratio is not great), wouldn't the sightings of bucks overall continue to increase since the sheer numbers overall are higher? Still assuming the food is keeping up.. And lastly, IF that were the case, shouldn't more of these bucks make it to maturity at 4+ years old??

I just wonder if doe harvest to maintain a more favorable buck:doe ratio is overrated if you have the food to support the herd.
 

Rous14

Active Member
Rous - You're heading to my ultimate question.. By increasing the sheer number of deer in general (even if the buck to doe ratio is not great), wouldn't the sightings of bucks overall continue to increase since the sheer numbers overall are higher? Still assuming the food is keeping up.. And lastly, IF that were the case, shouldn't more of these bucks make it to maturity at 4+ years old??

I just wonder if doe harvest to maintain a more favorable buck:doe ratio is overrated if you have the food to support the herd.
Thank you for taking all my mumbling and bumbling and summarizing it so perfectly. This is EXACTLY what I’m saying. And again, full disclosure, I’m not a biologist so this is just one passionate big buck hunters opinion. But to me it’s purely a math equation. A numbers game. Where the genetics are good and where the habitat will support it, why do I care how many does there are? (Unless of course someone can illustrate why less does equals a higher quantity of mature bucks then I’m all ears). I want MORE does because that’s the only chance I have of increasing the number of bucks in my area and therefore the number of mature bucks.

Illinois is a perfect case study....there were never more B&C bucks walking the farms of that state then when the total number of deer were at its all time high. Period. And that was in like 2007 ish
So I’ve asked many of deer fanatic the simple question.....by what metric was the deer herd unhealthy during the 2000s in that state? And why wouldn’t I as a passionate deer hunter not want to raise the herd level 30-40% to what it was during those years? And the only way to do that is to eliminate or greatly reduce the doe harvest until we get there. Seems relatively simple to me.

Farmers and insurance execs are the only ones that should want to kill a bunch of does. And understandably so. But I’m neither of those things and neither are my neighbors.
 

Buckhunter92

Active Member
I shot the first doe Ive ever taken on my inlaws place which is 28 acres just to fill my bow tag. Their is highways on 2 sides of it that I feel have always kept the numbers in check. Always have 1 or 2 mature bucks that's hang out in the neighborhood mostly on the neighbors but will come to this place to check for does it's just a natural funnel. But to your main question I would say goes to skips point "when will it stop" you don't want to many bucks trying to get at your does. Then you have bucks killing each other over the women hate to see them go like that instead of a you or your buddy behind them.
 

Rous14

Active Member
This is purely anecdotal I get it but most of us have all watched a lot of the different hunting shows on TV. I enjoy some of them, think others are garbage. But none of them are consistently killing GIANT bucks like Lee and Tiffany. Yes, they have a gazillion acres they can manage, leave food up since they farm a lot of their own ground etc....But none of that is my point. I swear almost every time you see them shooting one of their target bucks there are 8 other bucks that most of us would shoot in the field at the same time, 6 younger bucks that most of us wouldn’t shoot in the field at the same time and 16 does in the field too. I mean their deer numbers sure seem WAY higher than 95% of the farms out there and to my theory they are killing giant deer.
 

Rous14

Active Member
I shot the first doe Ive ever taken on my inlaws place which is 28 acres just to fill my bow tag. Their is highways on 2 sides of it that I feel have always kept the numbers in check. Always have 1 or 2 mature bucks that's hang out in the neighborhood mostly on the neighbors but will come to this place to check for does it's just a natural funnel. But to your main question I would say goes to skips point "when will it stop" you don't want to many bucks trying to get at your does. Then you have bucks killing each other over the women hate to see them go like that instead of a you or your buddy behind them.
Our take on Skips post are different. I think he even referenced taking too many does out on some of these farms. That would only support what I’m saying. When u get a 1:1 ratio your bucks are going to be in really bad shape when they come out of the rut. I’m not just increasing bucks, I’m saying increase the does too. I’d rather have 10 mature bucks in my area with a buck to doe ratio of 1:4 then four mature bucks in my area and a ratio of 1:1
See what I’m saying?
 

Bucksnbears

Well-Known Member
I have worst/best case scenario here this year.
I had maybe 8 does that fawned out this year on my property.
My neighbor planted a sugar beet field and now every deer that lived within 2 miles are here.
They bed on mine (cover) and feed on his.
Gotta really watch my scent control when all of a sudden 30+ does come by.
What I mean is it's not a cut n dry answer.
My area can be very misleading because of late season food.
Just 4_5 nights ago, I seen 12 (different) bucks and about 25_30 does.
And I'm in thick woods with not great visibility.
Several years ago, I didn't have a whole lot of deer here on my land.
I think I killed a small buck on Christmas morning just to be done.

I went that day and got a load of sugatbeet tailings to feed the deer. (About 16 ton)
Within a few days I had over 100 deer.
Just rambling but showing that things (#s) can change FAST.
 
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Buckhunter92

Active Member
Our take on Skips post are different. I think he even referenced taking too many does out on some of these farms. That would only support what I’m saying. When u get a 1:1 ratio your bucks are going to be in really bad shape when they come out of the rut. I’m not just increasing bucks, I’m saying increase the does too. I’d rather have 10 mature bucks in my area with a buck to doe ratio of 1:4 then four mature bucks in my area and a ratio of 1:1
See what I’m saying?
Yep I follow you I misread that
 

Daver

PMA Member
On the fawns, I wonder if some of the really late dropped fawns each year are the ones that end up dying? I always see some fawns during November that look like they were just born 30 days prior (I know they probably weren’t literally). Just tiny compared to most fawns. Maybe those are the ones that will struggle through a winter almost no matter what? Not sure. I’ve not experienced finding fawns in the spring or at least not that I would have attributed to starvation but maybe I’m wrong.

And I agree that when you drill down to a specific farm level, a given farm can only hold so many mature bucks, you can’t “stockpile them” per se. But the “best neighborhoods” in Iowa or Illinois are the best neighborhoods for a reason....they have more big bucks than most neighborhoods. So in theory 90% of the hunting areas in IA and IL could hold or have more mature bucks imo. And again only way to make that happen for folks already letting young bucks pass is to increase the numbers of them right?

I think my farm could hold another 3-5 mature bucks personally. Nothing scientific to base that off just my opinion. Daver would you say that your farm is at its saturation point of holding mature bucks?
Fawns - yes, I would say that the most likely ones to succumb to the winter/cold, etc, are the smaller ones. Just going by their body size, they look to be at least a month later than the "regular" ones.

# of mature bucks - my thoughts are that you can hold more by having more thick cover and more disparate food plots. In other words, enhance your food and cover to hold more by essentially keeping them apart from each other more. In other words, if you have just one food plot, well every deer is going to be there every night, etc. If you have a variety of options, then different bucks can still get a bite to eat by visiting "other" plots. Spread them out.

IMO, there are several variables that interplay that lead to how many mature bucks are "around" in any given year. We have had years where believe it or not we had 7 or 8 bucks around that would be 5+...and then usually two or three of them with busted racks a couple weeks into the season. In some ways, there were too many.

Some years, just 1 or 2. Food supply, availability of does, hunting pressure in the area, personalities of the individual bucks are factors that come immediately to mind as influences on how many mature bucks are around.

Some bucks, while mature, are easier to get along with and I think that without us doing anything about it they will be more tolerant of other bucks. Some are true bullies and keep the pressure on the subs to skedaddle or get their tail whipped...again. This slow realization for me has caused me to shift in just the past year or two to being very motivated to knock out the 3 and 4 year old bullies with modest apparent rack potential. For many years, we wouldn't shoot a 3 year old under almost any set of conditions and very darn few 4 year olds.
 

Bassattackr

Active Member
This is purely anecdotal I get it but most of us have all watched a lot of the different hunting shows on TV. I enjoy some of them, think others are garbage. But none of them are consistently killing GIANT bucks like Lee and Tiffany. Yes, they have a gazillion acres they can manage, leave food up since they farm a lot of their own ground etc....But none of that is my point. I swear almost every time you see them shooting one of their target bucks there are 8 other bucks that most of us would shoot in the field at the same time, 6 younger bucks that most of us wouldn’t shoot in the field at the same time and 16 does in the field too. I mean their deer numbers sure seem WAY higher than 95% of the farms out there and to my theory they are killing giant deer.

Yes, with plenty of up and comers to fill the missing spot! I have their book, it’s actually a pretty good read. Lee is a pretty smart dude (Chemical Engr originally).

His approach is largely based around food. Essentially outplant the neighbors and pull bucks over during late season. Then get them to “stay” on his property from there on out. Some stay, some don’t. I’ve seen both instances on our ground as well. Especially with the increase of food. And to be fair less intrusion as well.. The combination he preaches does seem to work.

And Rous, AGREE on the math equation. That is the entire reason I brought this topic to light!
 

Rous14

Active Member
- my thoughts are that you can hold more by having more thick cover and more disparate food plots. In other words, enhance your food and cover to hold more by essentially keeping them apart from each other more. In other words, if you have just one food plot, well every deer is going to be there every night, etc. If you have a variety of options, then different bucks can still get a bite to eat by visiting "other" plots. Spread them out.

Totally agree with you on this Daver!
 

Daver

PMA Member
Yes, with plenty of up and comers to fill the missing spot! I have their book, it’s actually a pretty good read. Lee is a pretty smart dude (Chemical Engr originally).

His approach is largely based around food. Essentially outplant the neighbors and pull bucks over during late season. Then get them to “stay” on his property from there on out. Some stay, some don’t. I’ve seen both instances on our ground as well. Especially with the increase of food. And to be fair less intrusion as well.. The combination he preaches does seem to work.

And Rous, AGREE on the math equation. That is the entire reason I brought this topic to light!
Unless something has changed recently, the Lakosky's also supplemental feed. I am not commenting here on that practice one way or the other, other than to say, it can be a game changer in terms of where any given deer decides to call home. If you combine safety and free food in otherwise great neighborhoods...you are going to have good bucks and probably plenty of them.

Whether everyone else can, or wants to, duplicate that scenario is another discussion.
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
2 to 1 ratio probably as aggressive as id dare to get. & folks can’t observe/assess that in November when does are hiding from bucks.

A guy needs to have a good eye for natural browse or Lack there of. If it’s being cleaned up- time to thin deer or enhance the natural browse. Many folks have no clue what status of natural browse is.

Real examples like: When you can’t grow a 10 acre bean plot cause it’s eaten to dirt- u likely have too many deer unless it’s in some secluded spot & only main source of food around. Or seeing 75-100 deer in a sit consistently, mainly does- fairly obvious. That last one isn’t common but does happen on certain farms unless it’s some cold late season hot spots that pulls from all over.
I would say natural browse eaten down to nothing or having little to no natural browse with even “mediocre” deer #’s is the most common mistake folks don’t know they are making or have an issue with.
 
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