-By Randy Cooper
While hunting this morning, a familiar big doe and her two fawns came down a trail near me. The fawns are now about half the size of their mother and have lost their spots. I’ve been privileged this year to witness almost the entire process of the fawns coming into this world. Through trail camera observations, I’ve seen the doe go from being normal-sized to getting so big I thought she was going to pop. She and most of her doe group ate at my feeder almost every day and night.
Around the mid-June, the doe quit coming to the feeder as often. There is a drainage area surrounded by dense brush close to my feeder. I started seeing her come to the feeder from that area mostly at night. Then, after a short stay, she would go back to the drainage and disappear. I believe she gave birth to her two fawns in that cover and that’s where they spent the first 8 weeks or so being nursed by their mother.
Many times in the past while hunting, I’ve often seen small spotted fawns even into mid-October. I used to wonder if these late births were a genetic imprint from the stocking programs that started back in the 1960’s, but after studying deer for many years and keeping my nose between the pages of deer hunting magazines, I’ve found out why we see the spotted fawns well into the hunting season.
A doe’s gestation period is 7 months, or about 210 days, from the time of conception. When a doe goes into estrous and conceives during the first days of November she will give birth to one or two fawns around the middle of June the following year.
Here is where you need to listen up because what follows could have a huge impact on hunting the rut this year.
If a doe DOES NOT conceive the first time she’s bred then she will come into estrous again 28 days later. If she does not conceive during the second rut, she will enter another estrous period 28 days after the second one. I’ve seen scrapes that were dead as a door nail become active again as late as January 1st, the last day of the season. The reason they once again became active is because a buck in the area had picked up on some estrous scent and had once again began to work his scrapes in the area. When you see spotted fawns late in the hunting season, you’re looking at the result of a doe that didn’t conceive during the first rut or maybe even the second one. Consequently, she gave birth to her fawns as much as two months late. AUGUST!
This is SO important to remember. Just because you didn’t score during the RUT, don’t go home and take an overdose of anti-depressants. You’re going to have another chance for sure about a month from the first noticeable rut and maybe a third one as well. The same tactics that worked during the first rut will work again when the second one arrives. I use drag-rags with a doe in estrous scent on one rag and a buck lure (tarsal gland, territorial infringement, or buck urine) on the other. The idea is to make any buck coming across the scent think a hot doe is being chased by an alien buck in his area. He WILL follow this scent right to where you’ve tied the rag up in a tree limb.
Take heart, if you don’t get to take advantage of the first rut during the first few days of November, you’ll have another chance the first days of December and you’ll see another flurry the first days of January again. When it gets late in the season, remember to hunt trails leading to food sources. If you put in your time in August and September you may be among the lucky ones to have a food plot to hunt over on your property. Deer are in survival mode and their stomach will dictate where they travel. It goes without saying that where the does are, there also will be bucks. Find the doe groups on your property and you’re in business.