Deer hunters across South Carolina look forward to the end of October almost as much as their kids look forward to circling the neighborhood, knocking on doors and filling bags with candy.

Good results are equally appreciated by both parties. The only difference might be, the deer hunters don't suffer any tooth decay - unless they raid on their kids' stashes of chocolate.

The approach of the whitetail deer rut causes an awful lot of daydreaming on the part of hunters, most of whom can imagine a buck big enough to stretch a taxidermist's talents to the max. What the approach of the rut shouldn't do is turn a deer hunter into a buck hunter.

Harvesting does continues to be an important part of any hunter or hunt club's management strategy. When the rut approaches, a lot of hunters will put aside the desire to fill their coolers and/or freezers with delicious doe meat. The feeling is, any doe that is out scouring the countryside for food might have a romantic suitor on her 6 o'clock. And the last thing a hunter with horns on his mind wants to do is dissuade an 18-inch 8-pointer from following in her tracks, oblivious to the guy in the tree on the downwind side of his route.

As one hunter explained it to me a decade or so ago: "I'm not gonna shoot her; Charlie might be coming along behind her."

I certainly understand that feeling, because I've passed up a lot of does over the years, hoping a big boy would show up a few minutes later. The last two 8-pointers I took, as a matter of fact, showed up a minute or so behind their girlfriends.

On the other hand, I've also passed up does over the past few seasons that didn't have anybody following them up. And I've passed up does that were being trailed by the whitetail equivalent of teen-aged boys, slobbering all over themselves over the pretty girl in the Dairy Queen parking lot on Saturday night.

So more often than not, a doe in the hand hasn't been worth a buck in the bush, to mix metaphors.

A couple of things merit mention when it comes to harvesting does. First, the earlier in the season you take does, the more food that's available for the rest of the deer herd. Deer eat an average of seven pounds of green browse per day per 100 pounds of body weight, so taking a doe out in early October is liable to improve the physical condition of the young bucks you're not planning to kill, anyway. Second, you take a doe before the rut hits and you've reduced the buck-to-doe ratio, making it easier for the local alpha male to do the lion's share of the breeding. The more breeding he does, the less subordinate bucks get to do; they display less rutting activity, they don't forget about food and they and enter the winter in better shape.

So when a fat doe arrives in range, if you need meet, don't automatically let the thought of horns satisfy your appetite.