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Is It Better to Take Barren Does?

Is It Better to Take Barren Does?

By Bob Humphrey

Our biologist explores another long-standing whitetail myth.

QUESTION: Where I hunt, we try to remove a few does each year to keep the herd healthy. This fall, one of my buddies shot a particularly large doe and said she was a dry doe and it was better to remove her from the herd because she isn’t producing fawns. My question is, how can you tell if a doe is not producing? –Ron C.

ANSWER: While I’m sure there is the occasional rare exception, the concept of a dry doe is largely a myth. Part of the reason for its perpetuation is simple misunderstanding: You see a doe without fawns and assume she is dry.

Is It Better to Take Barren Does?There are numerous reasons why a doe might not have fawns during the fall hunting season. She might simply have not been bred the previous fall, and therefore did not give birth. Perhaps it was an exceptionally harsh winter or she suffered some sort of sickness or injury and aborted her fawns.

It’s far more likely that she gave birth to one or two fawns and they simply perished some time between spring and fall due to disease, injury, predation or hunting. Unless she has an ear tag or some other distinguishing feature, it’s nigh onto impossible to identify an individual doe from one year to the next, so you can’t really tell if one particular deer is not producing fawns in multiple years.

If it’s legal or your management plan calls for removing does, then do so without feeling guilt or the need to rationalize your actions.

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