Updated: Sep 1, 2021
“It’s just a doe.”
It’s inevitable…hunting season has arrived, and we’re going to be seeing quite a few posts across social media that start just like that. I’m guilty of it. And most people reading this probably are too.
Why do we discount the does we decide to take as just a doe?
As hunters, we all go into season hoping to harvest a mature buck. Running trail cameras throughout the summer lets us watch antlers grow and gets us excited for opening day in the stand. We’ve also been conditioned to think that ‘trophy’ only means the biggest or best. It means antlers on the wall or bragging rights at hunting camp. It’s pretty rare to hear anyone bragging about harvesting a doe.
But guess what, a doe is not just anything.
Hunting is hard. Bowhunting is even harder. Harvesting a buck doesn’t mean you’re a better hunter than if you harvest a doe. It doesn't mean you practiced more, are a better shot or have better equipment.
Does are trophies too.
A mature doe is challenging to hunt since they’ve been in the wild for longer than a young buck. They are responsible for raising fawns each year and ensuring their survival. They are moms…and have that mom instinct to protect, be cautious and question anything that doesn’t seem right. It’s also a challenge since they are rarely alone. Does usually travel in groups, meaning more eyes, ears and noses that are able to detect a hunter.
Additionally, harvesting does is one of the most vital aspects of managing your deer herd. Many areas have a huge population of does and the herd needs to be thinned not only to provide resources for other deer, but to help prevent faster spread of disease. Early season harvests mean that food plots, acorns and other food is available for the remaining deer. Does use minerals and nutrients for lactation, fetal development and winter survival, so it’s important that as many resources are available as possible going into the winter months. Taking a doe in late season means that it consumed resources that other deer in the herd—bucks or pregnant does—could benefit from later. Early season can also mean that a doe is not yet pregnant with next spring’s fawn, while harvesting later has a higher likelihood of her being pregnant.
Best thing, meat from a doe is probably going to taste better and be more tender than meat from a buck. Yes, this is subjective but since does have less testosterone, the meat has the tendency to be less "gamey."
On our farm in Kentucky, we had a huge doe population and usually took 5-6 out each season to fill our freezer, and typically allowed friends and family to harvest does as well. Using game cameras helped us identify specific does to target or not. For example, we had one doe that had twin buck fawns every year…so, she was a keeper!
When you notch your tag with just a doe, remember:
She required hours of practice to make a good shot.
Harvesting her means resources are available for other deer in the herd.
The meat will be used to fill your freeze or donated to someone in need.
Balancing the deer population will mean a healthier herd in the long run.
An animal’s life was taken and should be appreciated and respected as more just something.
Every hunter chooses to take the animal they take for their personal reasons. While a doe may not seem like a ‘trophy’ in the traditional sense of trophy hunting, it is actually a trophy. It’s a symbol of your accomplishment and skill as a hunter, and we should be proud of harvesting a doe as much as we’d be proud of harvesting a buck.
Congrats to every hunter that has harvested a doe, and good luck to everyone hunting this season!
Sarah Honadel is an avid outdoorswoman from Kentucky, now living in Idaho, who enjoys hunting elk, deer, turkey, and waterfowl. She is a team member at Huntress View, Pro Staff for Browning Trail Cameras, and Brand Ambassador for the GoWild app and BaseMap app. Follow her on Instagram @waddysarah and @arrowridgecreations.