You hear your buddies say it all the time before deer hunting season. “I’m going to fill my doe tags early before the deer hunting gets good!”
This is a great strategy to get meat in the freezer and I have used this tactic for several years myself. However, it is important during the early season to not get tunnel vision when you see a group of does walking your way. Why? Because a smart and mature buck may be lurking close by.
Mature bucks that have not been pressured by other hunters will still feed during shooting hours, usually in the early morning and late evening. However, they will not feed aimlessly and will use does to their advantage. These mature bucks will slowly follow behind a group of does, typically 75-100 yards back and use the does as their own live decoys. If the does are spooked by a predator like us hunters, the mature buck will read their body language and turn the other direction.
Two years ago, I shot a very nice buck 10 days into the Iowa deer season. It was my first day out, and I was ready to fill some doe tags! Within 1 hour of hunting, I had a group of 8 does walk directly towards me. Learning this information from older hunters and my own personal observations, I waited and let the does get right under my stand. Fighting the urge to constantly watch the does and pick a good shooting lane, I watched closely the area the does traveled from. Within a few minutes, I could see antlers slowly moving my way. I let the group of does pass through my shooting range and let the mature buck continue his strategy. When the mature buck got within 25 yards, he was focused on watching the does and not the threat closest to him. I let the arrow fly, putting him down in his tracks. Photo of this deer below.
Hunting early season on public land is great time to fill doe tags. However, know that if a group of does are coming your way, a mature buck may be following close behind. Fight that natural instinct inside you and try not to watch the does. Focus on where they just traveled from and if you see nothing, fill those doe tags!
Justin J. Lind
White Buffalo Outdoors