By Mark Kenyon
Doe over-harvest. It’s a phrase that’s been thrown around a lot lately, especially in the Midwest, where deer harvest levels have been dropping over recent years. And with these deer harvest declines the inevitable question that arises is this. Are we killing too many does? And if so, whose fault is it?
The DNR? The neighbors? Insurance agencies? Obama? El Nino?
This very question, of killing too many does, was recently brought up in an article over at QDMA.com, written by my friend Matt Ross, and his message was an important one that I realized needed to be shared on Wired To Hunt as well.
Over the last year I’ve been paying special attention to deer hunting “current events” and people’s opinions on them, and if I’ve learned one thing it’s this – it’s easy to point fingers. But when it comes to the topic of harvest levels, I think the finger really needs to pointed at ourselves.
Several months ago I began work on an article for Outdoor Life magazine, examining this very question of doe over-harvest. And for that article, I spoke to a number of deer biologists and experts such as Dr. Grant Woods, Kip Adams, Brian Murphy, Russ Mason and several others. Coming out of those conversations, the most consistent take-away was this. We are the responsible parties. No one else.
As much as we might want to blame some outside entity for our deer hunting problems, the responsibility of maintaining appropriate levels of doe harvest sits with the individual hunter. You and me. Not any outside party. Not with a government agency. No one else.
Sure the government can adjust regulations and encourage certain behaviors, but in the end it’s us who are pulling the trigger or not. And we need to start taking that responsibility and that decision seriously.
A new era of deer hunting is coming of age in America. Habitat loss, predation, increased disease, extreme winters and many other factors are taking a toll on deer populations in greater ways than ever before – and this means we hunters need to adjust. No longer can we depend on top-down management, simply allowing our government agencies to set regulations at a high-level, and then shooting away once hunting season arrives. That’s just not going to fly anymore. Instead, we the individuals need to start taking responsibility for management at the ground level.
This applies whether you hunt public or private. By permission, leased or owned. With a bow or with a gun. Whatever your style of hunting is, you can start taking more responsibility.
But what do I mean by this? Simply put, we need to work harder to personally understand the local deer populations that we hunt, and then adjust our hunting plans accordingly.
Are we killing too many does or deer in general? Maybe in some places. Maybe not. The answer to that question varies state to state, county to county, property to property. Whatever the situation might be for you, it’s time to stop depending solely on our top-level agencies to figure this out and instead start doing the work ourselves.
That said, below I’ve linked to a number of great resources that describe in detail how to better understand your deer population and how to make informed harvest decisions. Take the time to give these a read, start working to understand the population dynamics in your neck of the woods and then make smart decisions based on your own data.
Before you do that though, what are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know in the comments section below.