Trophy Does

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Published on: Nov. 2, 2004

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

safety for themselves and their fawns. In other words, they are smarter.


Linger where deer hunters gather, either in sporting goods stores or in internet chat rooms, and you're apt to run into the long-running argument about whether a mature doe is smarter than a wise old buck.

Any deer--buck or doe--that reaches maturity has demonstrated intelligence and has likely learned a lot about survival. Older does, however, have shown a special kind of savvy. Not only have they survived, but they have helped their young and other deer traveling with them escape danger.

Hunters consider old bucks wise, because they generally travel in thick cover and usually late at night. However, bucks don't feed nearly as much during the rut, which roughly corresponds to the hunting seasons. Because they are not reliably traveling to feeding areas, they are harder to pattern and ambush.

Does, on the other hand, have to put enough weight on in the fall to sustain themselves and their gestating fawns through winter. This forces them to frequently visit feeding areas and bed down near them. Generally doe movements are more predictable than bucks.

This is not to say a mature doe is easy to hunt. Does seldom let down their guard, and mature does seem especially vigilant.

Bucks are legendary for being careless, even acting a little stupid, during the hunting season. I've seen them pace noisily back and forth on a ridge for more than a half hour, and I've spooked away bucks only to have them return a short time later. I once dropped a thermos from a tree stand, and a buck I hadn't seen marched right up to sniff it.

Bucks may be as smart as does, but during the fall, they fall victim to hormones and instincts. While does seem to spend most of their time looking for danger, bucks seem to travel with their noses to the ground. The biggest racked deer I ever took walked so close to me that all I could see was deer hair in my scope.

I waited until he passed and then took him--an easy target and a nice wall rack. During the next year, I spent a lot of time bragging, but I also spent a lot of time chewing. That was one tough deer.


An old saying goes, "you don't eat antlers." Back when hunting camps were

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