Every year, hunters look to kill a nice buck to add to their trophy collection and to put a load of fresh venison in the freezer. And every hunter looks to supplement his venison stock and control his local deer herd with a handful of doe harvests as well. 

A hunter who’s looking to score on a wall-hanger may want to consider waiting until late in the season to harvest does, after the breeding season has subsided.

The timing of doe harvest has and will always be a controversial topic. For starters, more than 95 percent of does harvested in December are already bred and will have a fetus or two in their wombs, but a reduction in the population by three for the next season isn’t exactly a bad thing, either. Deer in the Carolinas are prolific breeders and need routine harvests to control the population and take pressure off their habitats. Late-season doe harvests will help control the population and provide supplemental venison for hunters. 

For other hunters, early season doe harvests are part of the plan because an early season harvest prevents does from being bred. Essentially, all does that survive hunting season will wind up pregnant and drop fawns before the next season. 

While the timing of the doe harvest may not change the aspect of population control, shooting does during the breeding season can have a negative effect on a hunter’s opportunity to take a trophy buck.

“It never gets old to take a trophy buck in South Carolina, and I don’t shoot does in the early season or during the rut,” said veteran hunter Austin Morrell of Latta, S.C. “I want to make sure the does are not disturbed and keeping coming out during the daylight hours versus going nocturnal and moving late at night.”

Heavy usage of an area by does will encourage amorous buck to visit and stay in the area. The least amount of hunting pressure and unnatural disturbances will keep does visiting a stand area, making it an important place for a mature buck to visit.

Even though most does will be impregnated late in hunting season, targeting does in December may be the best alternative to get the best out of the peak of the rut when the big bucks are most likely to slip up and make a mistake.