Antlerless Deer Hunting

| Last Updated September 25, 2020

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We’re in a golden era of deer hunting these days. Most states’ deer herds are bursting at the seams and bag limits are liberal. Getting tags for antlerless deer is easy in most places. Where I hunt antlerless tags are unlimited. Legally, I could literally kill as many deer as possible. Of course, this wouldn’t be sound management strategy but neither is letting every antlerless deer on the property walk. The fact is, I need to kill some of these deer for the health of the herd and to stock my freezer.

Some people don’t feel comfortable shooting does. This attitude probably stems back to the days when deer were scarce and shooting a doe meant one less fawn the following year. Besides, it wasn’t manly to kill a girl. This status structure still exists today. A doe in the back of a truck will likely garner talk like “just a baldy.” 

At the same time the phrase, “nice spike,” is part of the vernacular. I get a kick out of the nice spike crowd. On their scale, a deer with very little experience is more impressive than one with three and a half or more years of living in the woods… just because she is missing some bones on her head. 

If you’re pursuing an experienced doe there are a few things to keep in mind. These tips will keep your trophy doe from developing a case of ground shrinkage.

  • It is easier to differentiate adult does from fawns when they are travelling in groups. Don’t shoot a loner doe unless you’re sure she’s a trophy.

  • When deer travel in packs, the lead doe is usually the oldest, most experienced deer. This is especially true when deer feel pressure.

  • Look at the ends. Adult deer have longer tails than fawns. The face and snout of an adult deer is also elongated while fawns have shorter faces.

  • Body thickness is one of the easiest giveaways. An adult doe will be filled out across the body and have a wider rump and shoulders.
Killing an adult doe is satisfying. They provide a lot of meat and a challenge. But there is no shame in taking a fawn. A balanced harvest depends on it. My first deer was a buck fawn. I had to rub around to feel the little bumps on his head. Of course, he had some extra equipment present when I started field dressing as well. A small group of deer snuck out of some brambles one November morning. As they entered a clearing, all but one deer bolted down a draw safely out of range. One of them stopped to look around. This was his fatal mistake.

There is nothing wrong with targeting fawns. In fact, I usually purposely shoot a young-of-the-year deer every season. They don’t provide as much meat as an adult deer. But a fawn offers some of the most tender venison you’ll ever eat. The backstraps on that first fawn still stands as my favorite wild game meal of all time.

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My name is Caleb and I am obsessed with hunting, fishing, and foraging. To be successful, you have to think like your prey. You have to get into the mind of your target - and understand Big Game Logic. If you have any questions, or just want chat about your latest hunting score or big catch, you can reach me at Read more about Big Game Logic.