There is no doubt that hunters interact far more with does than bucks. For this reason, it’s best to know them well.

This is a great time of the season to get a better appreciation for the local doe herd and the challenges they face each year. They go from surviving the winter in large groups to trying their best to raise fawns on their own in early summer.

Just as bachelor groups of bucks break up at the end of the summer and then reform, doe groups go through similar cycles. This makes it a challenge to gain a large enough snapshot of how many does are using one piece of property.

For hunting purposes you want to keep enough does around through the fall to keep bucks traveling through your area. For management purposes, you want to keep things under carrying capacity while maintaining balance in sex and age structure.

Trail cameras and hunting give me a chance to gather information that assists in monitoring the local doe herd. I concentrate on three unique snapshots each year to tell me if things are in balance with the land around me.

The first view comes from trail camera information gathered starting now through the end of July. The doe herd is as fractured as it will be all year, and right now is the only time they seek solitary living. Not only do you get to count them individually, you also get to find out how many fawns will be added to the herd.

By the time fall begins and hunting kicks in, the same does will be in small bands. They typically consist of two or three adults with their young. They stay in these small groups until the rut causes chaos and forcefully divides them for a short period of time.

Following the drama of the rut, supergroups are formed as winter sets in. Family bands join together into larger groups to see the winter through. Things begin to fall apart a spring sets in, and then it starts all over when fawns are born in seclusion.

These changes make it possible for a property to have two does in the summer, and then 12 or 15 antlerless deer through January and February. The change of season and the change of dynamic in the local doe herd can make it hard to accurately assess how the land is being used.

Paying closer attention to the local doe herd had a huge impact on my success as a deer hunter. I realized I needed them to have any chance of finding good bucks. I also gained the ability realized when there were too many or too few does.

There is no doubt that you will have more encounters with does than bucks when hunting this fall. It’s best to know them well and keep them happy. You’re season depends on it if you want to have the best chance to attract the buck of your dreams to your hunting location each year.

Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at

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