I had just made one of the better shots of my life. Eight deer were feeding 250 yards from the box stand I was perched in, and a gusty wind was blowing pea soup-thick mist into my face like I was standing inside a car wash.
I had a two- or three-second window to make the shot before my scope lens would become so covered with water droplets that I couldn’t see past the end of my barrel.
I cocked the hammer on my single-shot .270, wiped the lens with a bit of toilet paper and lowered the crosshairs to the largest doe in the group.
Without hesitation, I pulled the trigger, and the scene down the shooting lane looked like the shopping mall the day after Thanksgiving. Females were running everywhere.
Seven of the deer made it safely into the woods, but the one that unknowingly found itself in my crosshairs crumpled in a heap in the food plot.
I was very satisfied. It wasn’t a buck for the wall, but the fat doe would put meat in my freezer for the winter.
I climbed out of the stand to claim my prize, and tightened my waterproof hood to keep the thick mist off my head. The weather was dreary, but my mood was elevated by the success of the hunt.
I stepped 250 yards through the damp, bright-green rye grass, and bent over to grab my doe.
The only problem was that my “doe” had personal equipment more commonly reserved for the male of the species.
I was a guest at the club, but still, I’d have to fork over the $100 fine that went along with dropping a button buck.
My moment of elation and satisfaction instantly turned to regret and resentment.
But actually, I may have done the club a favor by shooting one of its button bucks rather than one of its does, according to Whitetail Hunting, a new book written by Shawn Perich and Michael Furtman.
“Think of the sex ratio in mathematical terms: does ‘multiply’ while bucks ‘add or subtract.’ Does, of course, ‘multiply’ themselves. Remove a doe from a population and you remove not just one deer, but at least two or three (the doe and the one or two fawns she would have born the next spring), and perhaps even more if you consider that she might have lived to reproduce for a number of years. Remove a buck from the population and you merely subtract one deer,” the authors write.
Another buck will do the job of that buck when it’s breeding time, but another doe can’t do the job of that missing doe.
“A buck is the wind that scatters seed,” the authors write.
Perich and Furtman aren’t suggesting clubs that allow doe harvests are doing irreparable harm to their populations. Quite to the contrary, clubs that have disproportionately high numbers of does hurt their big-buck potential, and culling does is essential to reverse the damage.
But a doe has the potential to give birth to seven or more bucks during the course of her life, making a young doe much more valuable than a young buck, if success is measured by the number of deer in general — and bucks specifically — on the property.
Too bad I didn’t know all this years ago. Think I could have gotten out of paying my fine?
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