Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak Pro Steve Noble lives in Deckerville, Michigan, an hour east of Saginaw. He’s been hunting whitetails for 26 years and been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 4 years. He’s also one of the hosts of “Maximum Outdoor TV” on the Sportsman’s Channel and the Pursuit Channel. The show is primarily about hunting whitetails, but also includes mule deer, moose, elk, antelope and bears and turkeys in the spring, as well as some back-country fly-fishing trips. Both Steve and his co-host Chris Garza have hunted in Illinois the last 10 years. Their Michigan hunts are primarily family hunts for Noble’s children, 12-year old Caleb and 10-year old Bella, and Garza’s children, his daughters 10-year old Madison and 6-year old Mya and son 8-year old Hunter.
Before winter sets in, I estimate that we may have as few as six does living on our property. However, during the winter months, we may see as many as 40 does feeding in our standing bean and corn fields. For the majority of the year, I really believe we've got our buck-to-doe ratio as close as it can be to one buck and one doe. So, if there are 25 to 30 bucks on our main 134 acres, I believe there are at least 25 to 30 does on the property also. We’re probably not harvesting as many does as most game managers, but we’re focusing more on keeping our buck-to-doe ratio one-to-one. If we realize we need to take more does, we will, but right now our herd is in such good shape that we don’t want to over harvest our does.
During the first of November, 2015, for 3 days we were looking for deer on our farm. I saw quite a few bucks but only three does. So, we think we probably don’t need to harvest any does this year. I believe that our doe numbers are so low due to a number of coyotes on and around our property that kill and eat young fawns as soon as they are born. Also, some of our neighbors take a good number of does. Those two factors seem to have resulted in a fairly-balanced deer herd without our having to harvest does. But if we see the necessity to harvest does on our land, we will. However, at this time, the predation on our property and the hunting habits of our neighbors seem to be keeping the doe numbers in check.
On the first morning that I hunted this property with two other hunters, between the three of us, we saw 19 bucks that day and not one doe. We have made the decision to harvest as many as five does every season. But until we have some other indications from our trail cameras and the number of does we’re seeing on our land, we won’t take any more than five. In many areas of the U.S. where there's an overpopulation of does, I understand that hunters need to take large numbers of un-antlered deer off their lands. However, over the years and through GameKeepers, we've learned that good deer management is on a plot-by-plot basis. You have to decide based on your herd surveys whether you should or shouldn’t harvest does in any given season and about how many does to harvest each season. On our property, we need to harvest does sparingly, if at all, but we've seen that our land can and does carry far more bucks than does.
To learn more about deer hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.