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Getting Some Meat for Your Freezer


One of the most debated questions among deer hunters is when is the best time to shoot does? And which does are better to shoot old mature does, or younger does? While I am sure some will disagree with my position on this issue, nonetheless, here is where I come down on this issue.

Ruth with a doe

Ruth with a doe

First let me say that my family eats a lot of deer meat. Typically with my large family, we will eat seven or eight deer if they are available. So every early season I am on a mission to replenish the freezer. I have hunted years where I waited until after November before I killed does for the meat. Other years I have killed them early, and still others, I waited until the last few weeks of the season. However with the change in harvest laws I can no longer kill more than one doe a day, and after my doe tags are used, I am limited to one per day on either sex days. This has caused me to reevaluate my process for putting meat into the freezer.

Over the past few years I have opted to kill does throughout the season instead of focusing on one specific time of the year. I kill them in early season using my tags, and then when the either sex days roll around, I will add some to the kitty during these days. Instead of determining when I kill does, instead, I determine when I will kill bucks. To accomplish this, I have dedicated stands that are for killing bucks only and some for primarily killing does. And then like most others, I have those that are available for anything that walks by. But when it comes to filling my freezer it is more of a decision based on opportunity than it is a plan of when and why.

Don’t get me wrong, I let does walk almost every hunt, but as the season begins, I will often kill the first few does I see to get some meat in the freezer and take off some of the pressure of putting meat in the freezer.

I have had a lot of debates from hunters who will swear that does taste better than bucks. Quite frankly, I have not noticed a difference between the two. In my estimation it’s all about how the meat was cared for not the gender than impacts the flavor of the venison. More about how to handle your meat in another story.

I would offer this suggestion. Killing does after they are bred is not necessarily a good idea. Most of the successful does will breed on time and will be good at raising fawns. These does need to be saved because of their experience in raising fawns. However shooting yearlings doesn’t leave enough meat to make the effort worthwhile. Do how do we compensate for this dilemma?

Simple answer is while I said earlier that I will kill does throughout the season. I still try and make sure I get my limit of does before the breeding season. We make every effort to shoot what I term young adult does and to do most of our doe killing before the end of October. For my estimation a young adult doe is one that is 1.5-2.5 years old. These are bigger than the yearlings but a lot smaller than the older adult does. Determining this is not always easy especially when they are alone. If in groups, you can compare one doe to the next in body size and get a good estimation of the middle aged in the group. But when they are alone I will look at their face. While I am not sure if this is a biological fact, and cannot find much data on it, I know many hunters who will agree. By looking at the face of a doe, you can determine age class. The older the doe, the longer her face. A yearling will have a small short face while an old matriarch will have a very big head and long face. The middle doe we are targeting will fit right in between. At first look you will see that her face is not short, but it doesn’t carry the extremely long nose of an old doe. Once this is determined, I shoot her in the neck to preserve as much meat as possible.

Using this technique will definitely help to fill our freezer and allow us to concentrate of big bucks as the rut rolls around. It is certainly a relief to get some good doe meat in the freezer and to know that now I can concentrate on hunting the bigger bucks that draw us out morning after morning.