early season doe management | Keefer Brothers

Is the Early Season the Best Time for Doe Management?

Doe Management during the Early Season I is it really the Best Choice?

As the month of July comes to end, and we welcome in the month of August the countdown to opening day of archery season is fast approaching.  In many states, whitetail hunting can get under way during mid-September which is a few short weeks away!  As the early season draws near, now is the time to begin considering your harvest and herd management strategy, specifically, doe management.  The best time of the year to complete your doe management is a discussion that is often up for debate.  This article will touch on this subject and dive into the question,” Is the early season the best time for doe management?”

Doe Management and Bow Hunting Does | Rival Wild Ep2 Doe Management
(Video) Before each year’s rut, the Keefer brothers take time in the early season to manage the deer hunting property’s herd. This means bow hunting does in accordance to their doe management plans. For more information on Rival Wild or the Keefer Brothers visit the following: 

First, A Little Review:

early season doe management Trail cameras | Keefer BrothersBefore diving into the topic of doe management, it would be a good idea to revisit the topic of whitetail hunting specifically as it relates herd management.  The principles of herd management are founded on the understanding that if left unmanaged, whitetail deer herds in a specific area can grow to an undesirable level.  This undesirable level isn’t a true “over population” per se, as it doesn’t reflect the state-wide population; however, when local populations are allowed to grow the resources available to these deer become more limiting.  Limited resources tend to lead to poor body condition in the deer population.  This tends to lead to low reproductive rates and poor lactation in does, as well as poor antler growth in bucks.  Resources such as food, water and cover are finite and have what is commonly referred to as a “carrying capacity”.  Once the local population of deer in any given area reaches the carrying capacity of the resources available to them, then it can no longer support any additional animals, meaning that death and predation rates may be high.  So clearly, whitetail hunting in addition to habitat management are important tools to help keep these populations in check and healthy.

Before you can breakout the PSE and start shooting some does, you first need to know exactly what you are dealing with and establish a baseline.  The most effective way to do this is with a trail camera survey.  Putting the Reconyx trail cameras to work can and following the trail camera survey process can help you get started and determine what the distribution and ratio of bucks to does on your property is.  Once you have this information, you can then determine just how many deer (bucks and does) that you should remove from your herd each season.  Trail camera surveys are not a one-time effort.  Continuing to monitor your herd throughout the year is the best way to keep your head in the game in terms of the sex ration and population of the whitetails on your farm.

Early Season

So, now that we have touched on why managing the buck to doe ratio on your farm is important to ensure a quality deer population, we can now turn our attention to discussing whether conducting your doe management during the early season is more effective than during the late season.  To discuss this topic of archery hunting whitetail deer as it relates to herd management you need to evaluate the pro’s and the con’s to whitetail hunting during the early season and the late season.  Evaluating the difference in whitetail hunting during these very different times of year can help you begin to narrow down when the best time for you might be.

Whitetail during the early season can be an extremely enjoyable time, with lots of opportunities to send a Rage Broadhead downrange.  While the weather may still be very variable, the early season can be an extremely effective time to complete your doe management for a couple of reasons.  The most common, and popular reason among whitetail deer hunters, specifically those who archery hunt whitetail deer for completing their doe management during the early season is that it can be a target rich time of year.  During the early season, especially if you live in a state that opens their archery hunting season in early to mid-September, does can be extremely easy to pattern.  During the early season, whitetail deer can still be found clinging to their summer patterns.  In many cases, hunting standing corn or soybean fields can be absolutely “lights out” and can produce multiple opportunities for the archery hunter.

During the early season, the days are still just a little bit longer than they will be during the months of December and January.  For many whitetail hunters, a longer day translates into more opportunities to climb into the stand in hopes of releasing a string on a deer.  Marry more daylight with more favorable temperatures and easy to pattern deer, sprinkle in an increase on overall opportunity and you just might find a recipe for harvesting a few more deer.  So if you have completed your trail camera survey and find that you need to remove several does from your herd to bring the population back into a healthy balance, then the early season just might be the right time for you.

While it is clear that there are many pro’s with conducting your doe management during the early season, there are some tradeoffs as well.  The first being a catch 22!  Does are very easy to pattern during the early season, well, so are the bucks.  The early season, especially if you archery hunt can be the best opportunities (aside from the rut) to put an arrow in that hit list buck.  Like the does, the bucks can often be found still in the summer bachelor groups and will often be found keying in on the same areas as the does.  This can often lead to a judgement call on the part of the whitetail hunter.  Many whitetail hunters would prefer to pass on harvesting early season does to minimize the level of disturbance in the area, focusing in on harvesting a mature buck.  This of course, is a very valid and understandable concern.

While the mild temperatures that the early season often provides can be a joy in comparison to the frigid temperatures of the late winter months, it can be somewhat unenjoyable to harvest and deer during the early season.  There are a fair number of whitetail hunters that will elect to pass on harvesting anything besides their number one hit list buck during the early season simply to avoid the extra work that comes with harvesting a deer when the temperatures are still warm.  Unlike during the late season, warm temperatures put a little extra emphasis on making a solid hit.  Should you find yourself making a marginal shot, allowing a deer to lay overnight during the early season can be very hard on a carcass. This can cause some whitetail hunters to hold off on harvesting any deer, let alone conducting their doe management during this time.  Some whitetail hunters also find the mild temperatures somewhat unpleasant, as it can require them to be on their “A game” in terms of their scent control. Scent control products like ScentLok and Dead Down Wind Liquids are critical anytime you enter the deer woods, but especially during the early season.  Lastly, during the early season there is a high probability that there will still be agriculture crops still in the fields.  This can make hauling a deer from its final resting place to the bed of the truck a little more difficult as the crops can limit your travel.  Some whitetail hunters would rather wait for harvest to occur and Mother Nature to freeze the soil before they begin to complete their doe management.

early season doe management early season hunting jacket | Keefer Brothers

early season doe management early season hunting pants | Keefer Brothers

Late Season

Now that we have discussed the early season, let’s touch on the late season.  As you can imagine, many of the pro’s and con’s that were discussed for the early season can somewhat be reversed during the late season with the exception of a few.  First and foremost, the late season can be a little more challenging to hunt.  The weather conditions can vary from cold, to very cold.  Deer movement can be somewhat hard to pattern and predict which can increase the level of complexity.

The late season typically falls after the majority of whitetail hunters have made their attempt at harvesting a deer for the year.  This changes things just a little bit in terms of herd management.  It is sometimes referred to as the “neighbor effect”.  To sum it up, you start the early season leg with a fairly solid understanding of what you need to harvest to bring your population into a quality balance.  Think of this as starting from ground zero.  At the start of the season, there is low probability that you neighbors have begun to harvest their deer (this assumes they are not as dedicated as you, if they are as dedicated as you then you should consider working together to manage your herd) allowing you to start off managing your deer as you had intended.  As the season progress, it can be hard to know for sure just how many deer are being taken off the landscape in the surrounding area.  Harvest can obviously change your numbers, so if can sometimes result in you potentially harvesting more than you really should.  Now, the “neighbor effect” is very variable depending upon your specific situation but it does exist and is something you should consider as it may result in you needing to harvest less deer.

early season doe management Late season hunting jacket | Keefer Brothers

early season doe management Late season hunting pants | Keefer Brothers

All that being said, if you have done your management and have a hearty food source in waiting when the cold temperature do arrive, then the late season can leave you with plenty of opportunities to harvest your does for the year.  From the comfort of a heated blind or shooting house you can easily put a few slick heads on the ground.  The frozen conditions can make it easy to drive to the deer and load, as well as making the work that occurs after the harvest much more enjoyable for the whitetail hunter.   Additionally, by the time the late season rolls around the rut has long passed, and the opportunity to harvest a mature hit list buck maybe dwindling somewhat.  This can make doe management a little more appealing for some deer hunters.

Is It a Judgment Call?

Doe management is important, that is a fact.  At the end of the day however, when you elect to conduct your doe management can really be a judgment call on the part of the whitetail hunter.  There are many pros and cons to conducting your doe management during the early season as compared to the late season.  Some archery hunters may choose to be opportunistic with their doe management, and harvest their does when it is quick and easy at any time throughout the season.  The late season does however provide some excellent opportunities as well, but it does come with it fair share of challenges.

Whether you choose to do your doe management early in the deer season or later on, the real moral to the story is that you simply consider managing your herd to the absolute best of your ability.  Whether you are interested in large antlered bucks, or just a healthy population, herd management is something you need to be keeping tabs on and doing your best to address each and every deer season.

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