Hunting the Whitetail Doe
Today was an exciting day for my family and me; my youngest son Kyle played in his first college lacrosse tournament today. That is quite an accomplishment in a person’s life, and I am very proud of him. Not only did he start as a freshman, he played very well, and most importantly he had fun. That isn’t what my article is about today, but I just had to mention that.
As I wrote in my last post I got a leftover doe tag to hunt on the plains of southeastern Colorado with a rifle in three weeks, and I am excited about that. As I was writing that night my friend had just harvested his first deer, which was a doe, and he got his with a bow. Most articles you read about hunting focus on the male of the species, I am guilty of that with my writing as well. But hunting the females (cows or does) is equally as satisfying to most hunters. As I have said many times it is the experience of the hunt that appeals to most hunters, not just bringing home a big rack to hang on the wall. Hunting the does and cows is equally as important in managing the game herds to sustainable levels as it is to hunt the bucks and the bulls, and as hunters it is our responsibility to take a female once in a while.
In light of that I thought I would give some tips on hunting whitetail does for all of us who may be heading out to do that soon. What I consider to be the most important factor to understand about the females (deer and elk) is that they are the ones who raise the young and teach them how to survive. Therefore they are the experts at survival, more so than the males. Their senses seem to be more attuned to danger, and this is why a buck will stay in hiding while the does filter out into a feeding area first. In a recent article I wrote about a deer’s senses, you can read that by clicking here. Understanding how a deer stays alert to its surroundings is critical for a successful hunt.
As with all hunting, understanding the area you will be hunting is essential. With whitetail deer hunting you will typically be hunting a much smaller area than if you were hunting elk. When I was hunting elk last month I was hunting a wilderness area of 70 square miles with no roads or human habitation at all. When I go to hunt whitetail deer in three weeks, I will be hunting a 12 square mile area filled with county roads and a couple of ranches and farms. Obviously getting to know the smaller area is much easier, especially on the plains, and I have learned so much just from looking at maps and aerial photos online. While I have never been to this place I will be going, I already feel like I know it just from the studying I have done. I already know where I am going to begin my hunt and the areas I want to concentrate on. However that may change after I get there to scout for one day before the season starts, but I doubt it.
If you can study maps and photos and identify feeding areas, bedding areas, and the routes in between, you will be in a better position to know where to look for deer in an area you have never hunted. Wandering around aimlessly will not likely lead to success on any kind of hunt, although sometimes it pays off for the lucky hunter, who should then buy a lottery ticket. When you are studying maps, look for geographical features which would steer deer in a certain direction; things like pinch points in the terrain, funnels caused by vegetation or the land, or areas where trails are likely to intercept other travel routes, such as just below ridges and near water sources.
Deer spend the majority of their time bedding so they can rest and ruminate (digest their food). Finding a good bedding area is the next step to planning your hunt. Whitetail deer will likely have multiple bedding areas close to where they feed in case one of their preferred bedding areas has been disturbed in some manner. Look for areas that offer concealment, such as thick timber, creek bottoms, dead timber thickets, heavy brush, or even overgrown fields with tall grass. If possible, deer prefer to have a good visual vantage point from which to observe their surroundings and keep an eye out for danger. A ridge with a steep edge towards the top is a good place to look for bedding areas, especially if there are trees or brush to provide concealment. In this situation, look for bedding areas at the base of the steep edge.
Finally, find where the deer will be feeding, and this will vary depending on the time of year. Obviously if you are hunting in farmland your job is much easier as deer love to feed on corn left over by the harvest, and other crops are appealing to deer as well. Natural food sources may be apples or crab apples, acorns, mulberries, clover, grass and other green vegetation. Some of this discovery cannot happen until you are scouting or hunting your area, but if you have paid attention to the other keys to success, this will be the final piece of information you need to bring home a deer.
As always, pay attention to the weather forecast as weather can have an impact on deer behavior as well. I have written articles about this topic which you can read by clicking the links below:
I am excited to get out after a doe in a few weeks, and I will be going to the rifle range next weekend to practice some more with my rifle. This will be my first hunt with this new rifle, a Savage 30.06 which I got in the spring of this year, and I am anxious to get out on the plains and put it to use on a corn-fed doe. The best-tasting animal I have ever taken was a corn-fed doe from the plains of Colorado, I am hoping to get another one this year!