Hunting as population management

Many hunters dream of harvesting a trophy buck. While people hunt for a variety of reasons, including food, tradition, spending time with family, connecting with nature, and seeking that trophy buck, the role of hunting in deer population management is sometimes overlooked. In particular, some hunters do not realize the importance of harvesting does to maintain balanced sex ratios.

“Sex ratio” refers to a comparison of the number of males in a population to the number of females. As with most mammals, the sex ratio of white-tailed deer is around 1:1 at birth (one male for every one female). This is referred to as a “balanced” sex ratio, and keeping a population near 1:1 is a goal of quality deer management programs.

If only bucks are harvested, the sex ratio of a deer population can quickly become “skewed” or “off-balance.” Having three, four, or even five does for every buck on the landscape can result in several negative consequences. Bucks will stay in rut until all does are bred, so a skewed sex ratio results in a longer rut. Bucks are so intensely focused on mating during the rut that they are worn by the end of the rut, even if sex ratios are balanced. A drawn-out rut leaves bucks completely spent of energy reserves right at the start of winter, when food is much less readily available to replenish their strength.

In many locations across Texas, if you are only harvesting mature bucks, you are not removing enough deer from the landscape. Overpopulated deer herds can damage vegetation, spread disease, and increase the likelihood of human-wildlife conflicts such as vehicle collisions. Harvesting does can help keep the population within the carrying capacity of the land, so that there are plenty of resources to support healthy deer.

Although female deer don’t have nice antlers for you to display after the hunt, you still take home lean, local, free-range meat after harvesting a doe. Additionally, your harvest helps maintain balanced sex ratios and a healthy deer population that will provide you many more hunting opportunities in the future.

For a quick summary of the benefits of harvesting does this hunting season, check out this infographic.

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