Antlerless Deer Season…What is right for you?

Overpopulation leads to less healthy whitetails The topic of antlerless deer harvest is never without some controversy.  Some people are adamantly opposed to the idea of any does being harvested and some would like as many killed as possible.  Most deer hunters would fall somewhere in the middle of these two opinions.  The question is what is right for you??

Several states in the Midwest have expanded their bag limits for antlerless deer dramatically over the last several years in an effort to reduce the overall statewide deer population.  This brought an immediate response from many naysayers, who claimed that the state DNR departments were only doing this in an effort to make more money, that they didn’t care about the deer herd, or that it was strictly a political move to accommodate the Farm Bureau or insurance companies.  I could try and defend the DNR’s motives against the mass of angry hunters or conspiracy theorist groups, but I will not take up that fight.  I actually choose to distance myself from the political rhetoric and focus on the real subject at hand; and that is sound whitetail management.

The unfortunate aspect of this topic is there is no “Right Answer”.  Depending on your personal goals, your hunting heritage, and what drives you as a sportsmen; your management strategy will vary, and should vary, to help you derive the most satisfaction out of your outdoor experience.  A hunter whose main focus is seeing a lot of deer will certainly want to have a doe management strategy that differs from someone who wants to achieve the highest quality bucks possible.

A successful day of doe hunting The land manager who is concerned specifically with trophy quality whitetails needs to be content with a smaller healthier population on his property.  A smaller population reduces the stress on the animals dramatically.  There is less competition for the essential life components (food, water, security cover) and more competition for breeding rights.  With a reduced population the rut is shorter (which reduces the stress on bucks) and more intense.  In high population areas the rut tends to trickle throughout the hunting season. After several months of continuous fighting, chasing, and breeding a buck’s physical condition is reduced dramatically.  This puts him in weaker condition at the beginning of the antler growing season, ultimately reducing his antler growing potential.  This is just a brief glimpse of doe management concepts for better trophy hunting, the whole management objective is much more complicated but hopefully you can see the direction.

Now I completely understand that not all hunters are concerned with trophy management.  If your main concern is harvesting deer for meat or just having a quality hunting experience, then set your goals accordingly.  If the deer numbers in your general area are lower than you would like, then talk to your neighbors and ask them to help you increase the population. The better you communicate with the other hunters in your area the better chance you have at improving your personal hunting.  If you are relying on the government to provide you with your “perfect world” hunting scenario, then you are going to be greatly disappointed.  There is no “One Size Fits All” approach to deer management.  The DNR will ALWAYS fail to make everyone happy.  There are too many opinions out there to make one the golden rule.  The best way to accommodate the management needs of the largest pool of people is to liberalize the regulations.  This puts the responsibility of herd management directly in the hands of the people who are enjoying the resource.   We as hunters make the decision to buy and use deer tags.  So, we need to look at ourselves first for the success or failures of the current herd management strategies.  What have you done today to help insure your future enjoyment of the sport of deer hunting?  If your answer is nothing, then don’t complain tomorrow?

Corey J. Wilkinson

Illinois Archery Hunts

Whitetail Deer Hunting Main Page                      Illinois Gun Hunts

Early Season Whitetail Hunting                           Hunting the Illinois Rut

Late Season Whitetail Hunting                            Real Estate

Last Updated: December 21st, 2022

One thought on “Antlerless Deer Season…What is right for you?

  1. Corey – thanks for your analysis. This is the best presentation on the issue I have reviewed. Hope all is well.

Leave A Comment