Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

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Goose
 
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Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby Goose » Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:13 am

Alright I'm just thinking out loud here so bear with me.
Everything I read tells me that a 1 to 1 ratio is perfect and that achieving those ratios will intensify and shorten the rut making for ideal hunting conditions.
Here in WI the doe harvest has been intense in the last couple of years and QDM is popular throughout the state. With these factors, the ratio's have come more into balance and in some areas they are close to equal or even more bucks than does.
 
On our main property we run cameras 8 months out of the year, have foodplots, cover, water(river), and keep a close tab on everything that goes on. It is a smaller property (50 acres) but is in a good location based off neighboring pressure. Our neighbors to the north(40 acres) don't bow hunt and only gun hunt (drives) it the last weekend (late Nov). Our neighbors to the East only gun hunt (brown its down) but are not very effective, our neighbors to the West bow and gun hunt but practice QDM, and the neighbor to the South bowhunts and gun hunts but also practices QDM.
So its not too bad.
Our camera surveys show that the buck to doe ratios are 1 to 1 or possibly more bucks. We also show a pretty good age structure with multiple bucks in each age class.
That should be perfect right? Make for an intense rut right?
 
Wrong, what we have seen the last 2 years was disappointing. We have gotten some nice bucks and had some close encounters with others but no intense rut.
LOTS of sign is laid down but as far as chasing, its far and few between.
 
Other friends/relatives that I think are good hunters who know what they are doing report the same thing and are getting frustrated as well.
 
Then other friends who are of the older beliefs (don't shoot does) have all of the bucks come to their property and the rut just explodes in their woods.
 
I am starting to think that the more does you have on your property the better the rut will be. I know this goes against the grain but it is what I see in the field.
 
Here are some reasons for my thoughts:
The bucks will go to where the girls are, so that means if you are only holding a few does the bucks will be elsewhere quickly.
Is it possible that because there are not many does the bucks don't get as "fired" up?
If you have a dominant buck in the area, will he defend that area and keep other bucks out, keeping tabs on the couple of does in "his" area?
 
I understand that weather has an effect as well does hunting pressure, both of these are being kept out of it.
 
What say you?
 
Jake

Genesis 27:3 Take your bow and quiver full of arrows out into the open country, and hunt some wild game.....

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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby MSHunter » Tue Dec 08, 2009 8:26 am

Hi Jake,
I'm no expert on QDM, but here goes anyway. The principle of natural selection states that only the fittest survive. This implies the best genes, most intelligent, adaptable etc. Additionally, the fittest are going to do everything possible to maximize their opportunities to breed and reproduce. It seems possible that limiting the buck to doe ratio to 1:1 could be counter productive. While this might ensure that only the most genetically superior deer breed, it seems that this might limit the potential mating opportunities that a buck could expect to have during the rut. As you point out, "[color="#0033ff"]The bucks will go to where the girls are, so that means if you are only holding a few does the bucks will be elsewhere quickly." [color="#000000"]It follows that a slightly higher number of does in relation to bucks could/would be beneficial in drawing more bucks to an area. [/color][/color]

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ranwin33
 
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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby ranwin33 » Tue Dec 08, 2009 9:25 am

What a great question. 

And I know I don't have the answer but here are some thoughts.  Sorry in advance for the length.

If I were to attribute to bucks the thoughts and reasoning powers similar to humans with regard to sex, then this is what I would think.  The area where you hunt may have be close to a 1:1 ratio, but it isn't big enough to even be considered a bucks home range, consequently those bucks find better breeding grounds elsewhere.  And the idea of a 1:1 ratio makes sense for an intense rut if the area is large enough that the resident deer herd isn't going to wander off and find more lucrative breeding grounds, i.e. a high fenced Texas ranch.  I think it is one of those scenarios that when viewed from a behavioral perspective makes sense, but in the real world the truth doesn't quite hold up, if for no other reason than deer wander.

But if I'm going to believe deer, particularly bucks are ruled by their hormones and have no real reasoning power when it comes to sex urges, other than to breed, I'd have to believe that once a doe is in estrus the bucks are stuck there, even when she is with another buck.  Simply because the attraction is so great and overrules all of their other thought processes, and since the buck can't reason there are better opportunities over the next hill he isn't going to take off for greener pastures so to speak and see what else is out there.  The chemical/hormonal attraction is too great for them to go elsewhere.

Which is right, you'd have to ask a deer bioligist.  Maybe a little of both come into play.

As for seeing the rut as it has been described in all the hunting magazines.  All I can tell you is this;
I've read about big time rutting activity, but in my 9 years of deer hunting I've only witnessed serious chasing two times.  Most of what I've seen has been bucks wandering around in a seeking mode, looking for something to do, nothing crazy like you may read about in magazines.

In all honesty, in our area I don't believe we could shoot enough does to really make all that much of a difference on breeding behavior.  I'd like to think the couple I took out early this year helped move the bucks my brother and I shot, but in reality I know better.  Shoot, I'm pretty sure the chasing phase hadn't even started by mid-November gun season, despite what all the magazines and experts would tell you.

Bottom line to me is; the idea of an explosive, intense rut isn't the reality for most of us no matter what the buck to doe ratio. 
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
Aldo Leopold

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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby 69Viking » Tue Dec 08, 2009 11:38 am

Wow Goose, well said! I honestly think everyone that has posted so far makes a lot of sense.

My thought is a 1 to 1 ratio might be a good overall goal over a vast range of deer covering thousands of acres. With that said the smaller properties within that area that can hold more does by providing the food they desire is most likely to have the bucks follow. We have shot very few does over the last few years on our 110 acres but have worked hard over those years to establish good food plots. Our 110 acres of hard woods, food plots, and some pine areas is now surrounded by land that was clear cut for logging purposes a few years back and now young pine establishments are growing there. Last year we noticed an increase in does holding on the property and now this year our cameras have picked up a lot of bucks they didn't pick up last year. Our policy is that of the 5 guys that hunt there we will all only shoot one doe if we get the opportunity and that should always leave a decent amount of does to attract the bucks and just maybe we'll start getting shots at more mature bucks. In the past we have only seen younger bucks with a mature one showing up every once in a while. Our rut down here is in January, I'll let you know how it goes!

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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby buckhunter21 » Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:42 pm

That is a great question Goose, and something that has been going back and forth in my mine for some time as well.  As said, realistically a 1:1 ratio or close to that will make for an intense rut, as each buck is vying for that last doe, versus maybe a 5-1 ratio or worse where the bucks know there are enough does out there to go around so they aren't in such a hurry.  But, does this work for small properties, when each property manages a different way?  I think that's where we may be going wrong here.  Unless you have adjoining properties (1,000 acres combined roughly) that practice the 1:1 ratio, you'll probably see this...But most of us don't have that, and that's probably why it's hit and miss and not very consistent.  What does everyone think?
QDM!

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Goose
 
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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby Goose » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:16 pm

Great answers and kind of the stuff that was running through my head.
 
As stated our land is 50 acres. The block of land that ours is in consists of about 800 acres with a river running through the middle of the block and right through the middle of ours. Luckily our land is the only one that is "managed" for wildlife and by that I mean food plots, hinge cutting, and other techniques for cover and natural browse. There is one small corn field in the very corner of the block which doesn't impact us too much. I kind of view the land to our north, east, and most of the west as a "sanctuary" until late Nov. because those neighbors don't hunt until the canons are used.
We have good relations with the neighbors and they pretty much see the same buck to does that we do but again, luckily, we see more because of the food and cover.
We had one nice buck that we regularly got on camera. I think we pretty much nailed him down to using our land and the neighbors land to the south. Yes he used the others I am sure but he spent a lot of time on those 2 properties. We had 5 encounters with him on stand but just couldn't get the right shot.
I honestly believe (trail cameras helped) that he kept all of the other bucks out of our area during the rut. We have pics of alot of other bucks pre-rut then when the rut started to heat up all we would see was him.(not that it was a bad thing)
My thoughts are that if we had more does around spreading their scent all over, other bucks would've come in and played in the big game?
I'm starting to think that the more deer the better.
Mathematically you cant get more than a 3 to 1 ratio and if you manage your land and keep an eye on browse lines and the such, I'm thinking that you should "hold" as many deer as you can support.
Your thoughts?
Jake

Genesis 27:3 Take your bow and quiver full of arrows out into the open country, and hunt some wild game.....

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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby ranwin33 » Tue Dec 08, 2009 4:31 pm

I don't see the one buck running all the others out of the area - from everything I've read and seen a dominant buck may be able to keep other bucks away from a hot doe, but those other bucks are always nearby waiting for a chance. On our property we have young bucks running all the time, even if they aren't participating with the breeding they're always hanging around. It just doesn't sound right that a single buck would be able to clear an area of all other bucks. Now that our property seems to be maturing, I've noticed we seem to have 2-3 dominant bucks in the area, with several smaller bucks hanging about either alone or on the fringes of the dominant ones. Just something I've come to see during the last three years.

Nothing wrong with trying to hold as many deer as your land will support. But in so doing you might try and remember two things, first is that given what prolific breeders deer are, it would be very easy to go over pretty quickly and get beyond what the land will support, and the second thing is that the numbers your land will support in good times is very different from what it will support in bad times, So you may want to manage the property so that the herd is at a level the land can support in bad times - that way you'll give yourself some breathing room if you get a bad winter or a drought.
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
Aldo Leopold

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Goose
 
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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby Goose » Wed Dec 09, 2009 4:21 am

You bring up some valid points on one deer "defending" an area and I agree with you, but something happened and I don't know what.
 
I think you are right on with land/deer statement as well. Its a fine line to walk but I believe it can be done.
 
 
Jake

Genesis 27:3 Take your bow and quiver full of arrows out into the open country, and hunt some wild game.....

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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby ranwin33 » Wed Dec 09, 2009 6:18 am

I wish you the best of luck with it; from what you have written it sounds like you are well on your way to providing a good place for deer.
 
As for what happens to the bucks come hunting season, it can be tough to say.  You say that you're having encounters with bucks, and your group is shooting some, so things can't be all bad.  I don't know what hunting was like years ago, but maybe things have just changed. 
 
Some of what I read in these threads where people are saying they're not seeing a lot of deer describes what I call seeing a lot of deer in the area I hunt.  Maybe it's just expectations need to change with the times.  For example, this past bow season I didn't see any "shooter" bucks, but saw some young ones and some does, not a great number of either but enough to keep things interesting.  And during gun season, my first three trips out I say 1 small doe, nothing else.  I would guess the numbers I saw would be frustrating for some hunters who are used to seeing 10-20 deer at a time on any given day, but I'm pretty pleased if I see 4-5, and I know some days I'll see none. 
 
Still I know we've got tons of deer in the area, game cameras and field surveys tell me this, they're just not choosing to walk into the one small space I'm occupying at the time. 
 
I'd also look with a bit of scepticism on anything I haven't verified myself, i.e. friend/neighbors saying they've got deer all over the place or aren't seeing anything at all.  Just from personal experience I know people like to spin a tale because they want you to believe things are better for them than you have it, or they might be saying the hunting isn't all that great because they want it all for themselves.  Our hunting club to the south is a perfect example; depending upon who you talk with they are either covered up in deer or they don't have any at all.
“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
Aldo Leopold

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RE: Questioning Common Buck/Doe Ratio Beliefs

Postby bowman12 » Wed Dec 09, 2009 10:30 am

Interesting discussion, ALOT of good points. I think overall herd health is helped when the ratio is 1:1 in a very large area. But in reality keeping the does on your property will keep the bucks around and draw others in from neighboring properties. I've seen it on our 160 acres, I shot two bucks in the last 4 years that I'm about 90% sure weren't local bucks. We don't harvest does until the end of the year on our 160 acres when they're done breeding, and that's if we feel that there are enough around that the population is too high.
It's hard to pass up does until the end of the year because we like venison so much, but they're definitely good to have on your place during the rut. Good Luck! 

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