When I first got on my land in 2001, I saw one important fact. I needed to reduce the amount of hunting that was going on. I chased everyone out and posted the property, and started seeing results almost immediately.
It takes a population of undisturbed does to make a herd. Does make does. Does make bucks. More does make more bucks, and it keeps going like that until you hit the carrying capacity of the land. You can kill off all the bucks and the whole thing rights itself if a few seasons. It's now the start of my 8th season on the place. I now see herds of 10-15 deer where before I only saw groups of 2-5. There are more doe. There are more bucks. The bucks are bigger.
D&DH has recently published articles confirming what I suspected for years: an unbalanced herd has a tendency to right itself in relatively short time. The idea of a sustained 8:1 doe/buck ratio just does not happen. All it takes is a modicum of restraint to keep things in relative balance. Yes, I harvest doe. We've probably harvested something like 1:1, and now that my sons are coming on line as independent hunters, I will encourage them to take doe. However, my goal from the start was to grow the herd overall, and wait until we had a larger population before we started getting picky.
D&DH did an article in the past year talking about the role of mature doe in maintaining a healthy herd, and I concur. It is not just the doe that should be shot, it is the younger does that need to be targeted. The matriarchs, usually the lead deer in a herd of doe, is its most important member. I don't mean to anthropomorphize deer, but you have to figure that the sum of the herd's knowledge about its world resides in the heads of its matriarchs.
The other benefits of shooting an immature doe: more room in the freezer and tastier meat. As much as I like taking a mature buck, you know things are out of hand when the kids begin to recognize which deer you put in the chilli, and the family celebrates when the last package of old Mossy Horn gets used up. Young does are less . . . distinctive.
Your friends are right, but you are right too. Doe makes the best bait for buck. It is your resident doe groups that form the main impetus for bucks coming on your property in the fall. On the other hand, without a decent balance, you never see much in the way of competitive rut behavior. I suspect this is important in more ways than we suspect. In the first few seasons, it was common for us to see a single 1.5 yr old buck running does back and forth across the ravines. If the doe stopped long enough, he would come up and prod them with his antlers. It kept the doe in constant motion for days, and it certainly kept them upset and fretful. It was always fun to watch, especially with the kids, but you could tell the doe were getting the raw end of the deal.
Now with more bucks competing, the doe get somewhat of a rest. The bucks vent their energies in male on male aggression, while the doe are contentedly feeding. This change in rut behavior seems to me to be a key tipping point in the health of the herd. Last season, for the first time, I got to see something I had never seen before: multiple bucks gathered in a small patch of woods, performing all the things we think of as aggressive rut behavior with nary a doe in sight.
I am sure the doe were there, probably watching from a nearby cedar thicket. However, the point was that the doe were no longer the sole focus of the activity; they were being spectators. You cannot help but think how many kilocalories worth of acorns were being saved every hour with the doe able to stand back and watch. Although I have to admit, my mind was not on the doe that morning.