Hunting: make a plan for what you hope to harvest this fall
With an expanded archery season with unlimited antlerless licenses and a 30% increase in deer licenses for other seasons, Maine deer hunters will have plenty of choices to make this fall as to whether and when. take a doe, which one and how much to draw. These are good questions.
From a management perspective, it all depends on your goals. If your herd is healthy and meeting or exceeding target levels, the short and somewhat ironic answer is: The first that delivers decent shot. This could also be the case if your personal goal is to put meat in the freezer. It can also be a good approach for young people or adults new to the hunt who need a little self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment for their efforts. State biologists have already determined how many deer can be removed without impacting a sustainable population, so if you hold a permit, your impact will be negligible.
However, some people have different goals and are more aware of herd and population dynamics. If given a choice, there may be some advantages or disadvantages to taking one doe over another. Research has shown that maturity makes better mothers. They produce more calves and are more successful at raising them. If you want to see your local population continue to grow, you could switch from a larger, older doe to a younger one. Some might tell you that a young doe will have more tender, flavorful meat, but that’s largely a myth. It’s more about how you handle and treat the deer once it’s picked up.
Speaking of myths, that of the sterile old doe is just that. With very rare exceptions, mature hinds will continue to produce offspring until death; and they can live a long time. If you see an older doe without fawns in the fall, it is likely because its fawn (s) have succumbed to disease, predation, or some other form of natural mortality. If allowed to live, she will reproduce and try again next year and the year after.
Another reason you might want to pass up an older doe is for biology. One of the reasons they make better mothers is that they have learned their home range. They know how to avoid danger and where the best food is, and they pass it on to their offspring. As long as they live, they will stay in the area and continue to produce offspring. Remove an older doe and you are creating an opening for another younger doe, which might not be as productive.
When to shoot a doe can be more important to gun hunters. Although there is no right answer, the start of the season offers some advantages. On the one hand, it relieves the pressure if you are using a bonus license and still have a money tag. Reducing the number of does before the rut could also lead to a more compact and intense rut, which most hunters probably prefer.
There is also an energy benefit. A goat spends a lot of energy raising a doe during the rut. If it is removed after the heat, all that energy has been wasted. It’s trivial in the grand scheme of things, but in areas with low deer numbers it’s worth considering.
Yet another reason to fill out that doe tag early is your chances of success. As each day of the hunting season passes, there are fewer deer there. And those who stay get educated quickly. Although they do not leave the city, research has shown that deer move less during the day and more in thicker cover as the hunting pressure increases. Hold that doe tag until the end of the season while you wait for the money and you might regret it. As many guides and outfitters will tell you: don’t let a deer pass on the first day you shoot the last.
As for the number of shots, it comes down to what the regulations allow and your personal goals. Again, if you are licensed, biologists have determined that your impact will not be harmful. Only a fraction of permit holders will actually harvest a doe and the success rates are fairly consistent. However, there is no need to get carried away. Each deer you kill takes away an opportunity and more than a few meals from other hunters. To paraphrase a song by The Band: “Take what you need and leave the rest. “
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered guide from Maine who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: [email protected]