In most cases, deer hunters skip the does and aim for the bucks simply because hunting season is too short. There’s nothing wrong with hunting does: it can be a fun challenge and a nice change of pace, and the venison still tastes every bit as good as it does when it comes from a buck.
However, there’s something magical about bagging a huge buck that doesn’t come from shooting a doe. Why go after a minor consolation prize when you can get a major deer hunting trophy with a little extra patience and hard work?
Even if you don’t want to actually shoot the does, you are still going to have to worry about them if you want to be a successful deer hunter. This is because female whitetails often take it upon themselves to serve as the virtual “security detail” for their herd. If they see you, smell you, or otherwise sense your presence, they will alert the other deer in the herd – including the buck you’ve spent all day tracking. Make no mistake, while does look small and unthreatening, they can easily ruin a day of hunting, and they can do it in a matter of moments and quick, sharp bleats.
If you are going to be a successful hunter, you need to approach your target in a tactical, strategic manner. Pretend like you’re playing a video game where you have one central target and mission to complete, but where – in order to complete that mission – you have to get past a bunch of endlessly irritating goons that have been put in the way for the sole purpose of slowing you down. Imagining does as the “goons” and the buck as the target or “mission” will help you to better appreciate the stakes of a deer hunting endeavor and will give you the fuel you need to plot out an effective kill strategy.
So how can you get past the does and score the buck that you’re hunting for? First off, you’re going to need to find a convincing hideout. If you’re up in a treestand, using scent control, and minding wind patterns, you probably won’t have much to worry about. However, if you are on the ground or hunting an open field area, you will have to be more careful and may have to adopt diversionary tactics in order to draw the does off your position.
For instance, while we normally think of decoys as a means of drawing bucks into our sights, they can also be used to lull does into a false sense of security or to send them scurrying away. Does will generally steer clear of buck decoys during the pre-rut period, so positioning one near your blind can be a great way to repel does. As a bonus, a pre-rut buck decoy can also draw in some defensive live bucks, meaning you can get your golden shot at the target by using the same device that scares away the security detail.
Following does post-rut may not prove to be as effective, since much of the season’s action has slowed to a stall. Nevertheless, paying attention to does as they move towards feeding grounds can help determine where bucks will be. Deer need to fill up on calories before the coldest portion of the winter, and are moving between food and water supplies and their bedding areas. Find a spot that has distinguished deer activity, and use does to your advantage as you hunt for the buck of your dreams.