-By Randy Cooper
I was part of a great bow-only club in middle Georgia while it existed for 18 years. It’s still a club in the technical sense, but everything standing was cut down and destroyed three years ago. While it lasted, it was the most fantastic place I’ve ever hunted and will last in my memory forever. I harvested my two biggest bucks there and many other hunters did the same. We had a true buck factory. We tried to follow QDMA practices and harvested as many does as we could. We focused on what I call the “ALPHA DOES”. These were the very oldest girls in the herd. You could always tell them apart from the rest because of their long head and enormous body size. You didn’t have to look twice to know which one you needed to take out.
The doe groups on a given piece of property all operate the same. During spring, older does will give birth to two, and sometimes as many as three, fawns. Some of the buck fawns will disperse on their own and others will be forced out before the next rutting season 18 months later. This is nature’s way of preventing inbreeding. The ones who try to stay with the doe group experience a hard time. They do alright up until the spring the next year. At this point they start being harassed, dominated and even rejected by older does in the group that are pregnant, including their mother.
The yearling buck jumps right out of the frying pan into the fire when he tries to find a place of his own in the woods. The young buck tries to make his way and locate a new home only to get his butt kicked and run off by older bucks when he enters another buck’s home range. Radio-collared bucks have been tracked after dispersal and found to travel from two to 20 miles and, in some extreme cases, 100 miles in search of a new home range. The facts: Does on a property have the absolute best cover, food and water in their home range. The bucks sharing that property have to settle for what is left and that’s where dominance between them rules.
Our club came up with a plan that wound up working. We saw what was happening and did research on the findings of the Quality Deer Management Association. We thought our best bet of keeping really good bucks on OUR property was to remove as many older age class does as the law would allow. In doing so, we provided a place for these otherwise dispersed bucks to live and thrive to older age. This tactic, along with supplemental feeding all year and established food plots, not only kept bucks from dispersing and leaving our property as much but also attracted transient bucks from our neighbors’ properties. By no means did we run out of does to harvest. What we did by removing these does is adjust the buck/doe ratio to such a point that more deer signs than ever began to show up. There were fewer does to each buck and the competition for breeding rights was dialed up tremendously between them. Bucks started to respond to calling and rattling more than ever before. Our theory was that they must have thought a fight over an estrous doe was taking place and they had a chance to come in and make off with a girlfriend. They usually didn’t make it anywhere after they showed up.
Harvesting older does has been a tried and true tactic that made a handful of North Georgia bow hunters more successful than we ever thought possible. After two to three short seasons, we began to see the benefits of our labor. We let the little bucks walk to live for another season and harvested does like there was no tomorrow. We practiced QDMA proven tactics and it made us the envy of a lot of other clubs. That place is gone now but the remaining club members have turned it into a gun club and STILL continue to fill their buck tags each season since the clear cut took place. Seems to me, even with the woods all gone, the bucks still know where to come to find a girlfriend and free lunch. The members still supplement feed and plant food plots. These deer remember a good thing and keep coming back. Try these simple but effective tactics on your club or private land. You don’t have to have the neighbors doing the same. What will wind up happening is that all the great bucks they are seeing on their land in the early season will wind up in the bed of your truck during the rut and beyond when food gets scarce in the woods. Write me back and let me know if this works for you!