Hunters often debate the question, “When is the best time to harvest does?” A simple answer is whenever the opportunity arises. If done at the right time, there are often added benefits to the remainder of the hunting season. If the adult sex ratio is unbalanced we often suggest doing the bulk of removal during the early portions of season.
Harvesting does during the early portion of season accomplishes many objectives. First and foremost, more food is saved for deer during the potentially harsh winter months. Deer that are taken during the later part of season have been foraging on food plots for months. If these deer are harvested as season opens then more food will be available for deer that make it through season. Severity of winters is always unknown, so conserving forage by tagging antlerless deer early is often a sound practice. It’s important to remember the stress associated with carrying fawns and rutting behavior. Having adequate nutrition is a must to get deer through the winter months in the best condition possible.
Another reason to reduce deer numbers earlier rather than later is the possibility of experiencing a more intense rut. When the adult sex ratio is balanced, bucks must work harder to find another receptive doe. This means more time on their feet. When a deer is more active it is typically easier to harvest. By tagging does earlier rather than later, it’s possible to experience the rut activity you’ve dreamed about.
In addition, harvesting does early can take the pressure off the season. Hunters get additional experience and confidence in their abilities. This added confidence in marksmanship and woodsmanship will be put to the test during the long sits in November.
There are many benefits to tagging does as season opens. If the land you hunt is in need of doe management consider doing so in the first few weeks of season.