Old Does May Be the Smartest Deer in the Woods
Today’s deer hunters are victims of media overplay. Videos, TV shows and social media posts glorify mature white-tailed bucks as the kings of the woods. You would think antlered deer are the only ones in existence.
Yeah, we all love big bucks. They certainly are smart, crafty and majestic. But truth be told, they have nothing on wise, old does. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and say a mature, matriarch white-tailed doe is the smartest deer in the woods.
Think about that for a moment. A mature buck only has to look out for himself during hunting season, and even then he becomes unglued at least once every year — during the rut.
The same cannot be said of a fully mature doe. She’s always on high alert, 24/7, 365. That big, old doe usually has to watch out for more than just herself, too. With fawns in tow, a matriarch is often the leader of a larger pack when does congregate. Add it up, and it makes for one ultra-wary critter.
I cut my deer hunting teeth by targeting mature does in the vast public lands of northern Wisconsin in the 1980s and ’90s. Back then especially, any deer was a trophy. Bucks were scarce and doe tags were hard to come by, but when you were lucky enough to draw an antlerless tag, you always wanted to bag the biggest doe possible. After doing that for nearly 20 years, I came up with these five tried-and-true tactics:
1. Dedicate several days to scouting a preferred food source before hanging any stands. By observing deer activity in the morning and the evening, you can pinpoint the exact locations mature does use to navigate to and from these food sources.
2. Hang stands within shooting range of well-worn trails leading to and from bedding areas. Make sure the stands are hung well in advance (when possible), and always make sure they are downwind of the predicted activity.
3. Do not enter hunting areas during peak activity times (cusp of daylight on both ends). Get to the stand plenty early (90 minutes before first light, if possible) and leave late to avoid spooking deer and changing their patterns.
4. Never hunt a stand or blind unless the wind direction is perfect for that spot. Public-land deer are many times more wary than those on private ground, especially those in farm country. One whiff of you, and that big, old doe will be nearly impossible to kill for the rest of the season.
5. Don’t shoot the first deer you see — unless it’s the big doe that you want! Younger does are invariably the first ones to show up at a food source. The older, wiser does normally circle downwind and don’t expose themselves too often.
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Saturday Night Deer Camp is a primetime block of shows kicked off each week with the award-winning Deer & Deer Hunting TV. Hosted by Dan Schmidt, Gordy Krahn, Mark Kayser and Steve Bartylla, the show is in its 14th season and covers everything related to deer hunting, from tactics and strategy to gear, biology, great hunts and more.
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August 10, 2017 at 11:14PM