According to biologist Charles Ruth, the harvest of doe deer has dropped in recent years as has the overall deer harvest, but he said the decrease is not necessarily a bad thing.
“There’s more to it than just not having as many doe deer to hunt because of habitat reasons,” Ruth said. “Overall, things have changed considerably during the past 10 to 15 years or so. There was a time in the late 1990s and in the early 2000s when we strongly encouraged harvesting doe deer. We were, at that point, okay with about a 50-50 harvest between bucks and does.
“However, with the downturn in overall deer numbers and the impact the habitat changes and coyotes are having on the deer herd, hunters need to strongly consider the potential impact of harvesting a large number of does on their property. While the harvest of doe deer at the right level is still healthy for the herd, it’s not necessarily good to do it at the highest level possible.”
The data Ruth compiled shows that in 2012, 101,181 does were harvested, a significant drop from 2011. Going back to 2005 the data is very interesting, because the harvest between bucks and does was almost 50-50. In 2005 the data indicates there were 126,550 bucks and 124,655 does harvested. That’s a drop of over 23,000 does since 2005.
Ruth said does are a key to the recruitment process for the deer herd.
“I equate the doe herd to money management in terms of making investments in the future,” Ruth said. “We’re not earning the interest rate, in terms of recruitment on deer, as we were even 10 years ago. Coyotes are one factor that have changed the interest or return rate and now must be factored into the equation.
“I think hunters have to make a conscious decision to cut back based on the needs of the property they hunt. A lot of hunters are able to hunt the same areas every year and thus they can help or hurt the overall population by the harvest of does. There are some areas where there are high-enough numbers to create crop damage, and in those cases, harvesting more does may be a higher priority. But overall I’m recommending hunters just think about it in terms of making investments and getting returns before harvesting too many doe deer.”