The importance of harvesting does

Consider harvesting does this season to help control the deer population and the spread of chronic wasting disease.

Doe in field with long grass in background

As you prepare to make your annual fall trip into the woods to enjoy Michigan’s white tailed deer hunting season, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension recognizes it is important to think about what deer you plan to harvest before your hunt. As you evaluate the area in which you hunt, it is important to critically examine the current deer population in the area, the quality of the habitat, and how well the habitat supports the current deer herd.

According to the Quality Deer Management Association’s, now the National Deer Association, “Whitetail Report 2020,” Michigan deer hunters, on average, spend more days hunting than hunters in any other state and are more successful in their hunts. Michigan hunters also harvest more bucks per square mile than hunters in any other state, however, very few hunters harvest more than one deer per year. Michigan hunters take more bucks than they do antlerless deer.

Does are the population drivers of the deer species and harvesting does is an important element of deer management and conservation. Doe harvest is an effective way to manage deer density, balance the buck-to-doe sex ratio, increase fawn recruitment, and make room for young bucks.

Harvesting does in known disease areas is critical. Lowering the deer population density may help minimize disease spread in known disease areas by reducing the number of deer-to-deer contacts.

If you are wondering how many does you should harvest this season, the National Deer Association has a Doe-Harvest Diagnostic tool that will help you assess your harvest history, habitat, deer herd, weather, predator and disease conditions to help you determine an appropriate doe harvest this season. As a general recommendation, hunters in Michigan should aim to harvest one to three does for every buck. Of course, that is a general rule dependent upon the deer population in your area. If you are hunting in an area where deer populations are low, you may not wish to harvest an antlerless deer. Conversely, if you live in an area where deer are abundant and overpopulation is a concern, harvesting one to three does may make sense.

Don’t forget that beginning this year, deer hunters are required to report a successful harvest within 72 hours or before transferring possession of the deer to another person, processor, or taxidermist. Harvest reporting will allow the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to obtain real time data on the number of deer harvested which helps the department make decisions about deer herd management, better assess hunter activity, and will help in determining disease prevalence rates, such as chronic wasting disease, more accurately.

Information that is collected from the harvest survey is not public and would only be utilized when specifically required by law. Hunters can receive technical assistance to report their harvest over the phone by identifying their closest DNR customer service center location and calling the phone number listed for that location.

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