A Lowly Doe by Larry Weishuhn
A Lowly Doe?
by Larry Weishuhn
It was opening morning!
“You actually shot a doe?” My hunting partner at the time, when questioned by another hunter in our camp did not respond to the query. He kept on dragging his doe toward the skinning rack. “That’s got to be the first doe shot on this place, at least since my family started hunting here twenty years ago!” The commenter was wagging his head in a negative manner. “A doe?” he repeated, “Why would anyone want to shoot a doe?” He continued, “What’s the matter, bucks too smart for you?” Followed by a snicker…
My hunting partner, like me, was a wildlife biologist. I could see his neck get redder and redder and he was gripping the doe’s front legs tighter and tighter. I sidled toward him, if there was to be further confrontations, I hoped it would simply be an explanation from a biological perspective rather than something more physical. Back during our time together at Texas A&M, my friend was quick to respond, often leaving someone nursing a sore jaw, nose and blackened eyes.
As he pulled the doe onto the concrete slab where deer were gutted, he smiled as he pulled his hunting knife from its sheath. “Son…(knowing full well the “taunter” was as old as my friend), maybe it’s time you learned a little about deer herd and habitat management. One of the primary reason this property has a buck to doe ratio of one buck to every eight does, is because had y’all been shooting does as recommended by biologists, you would now likely have as many bucks as does, and those bucks’ bodies and antlers would be considerably bigger than they are. You would have nearly as many deer as what’s on the property now, but a whole lot more bucks.” He smiled, “Since Larry and I now control this property, you’ve got a choice, take your legal number of does, or you can go find somewhere else to hunt. That’s why if you will recall, when you signed your agreement, any buck you take immediately goes to the taxidermist, no exceptions, and why we also require each of the hunters to shoot two does before taking a buck.” He added, “Right now you may be regretting you signed that agreement, but I can assure you if you get with the program such as we are now in, in three years, you’ll be really glad you’re on this property, that is, if you want to shoot bigger bodied and antlered bucks like you earlier said. Frankly, either you start shooting does following our program, or, pack your bags and do not bother to come back.” I could see the hunter who had done the taunting, reel back to do some serious thinking…
“And, if you want to know which does to shoot. You shoot those that you can get and keep your crosshairs on long enough to make a killing shot!” With that he finished gutting his doe, weighed and then looked at her lower jaw to estimate her age. “By the way if you’ve forgotten all deer taken on this property have to be weighed and aged, and bucks measured according to Boone & Crockett, but using gross score only. The sheet and record book are there in the shed. If you do not know how to age a deer by tooth eruption and wear, keep the lower jaw and Larry and I will age them for you and teach you how to age deer.”
That conversation took place quite a few years ago, a lifetime for many, back at a time when hunters were just starting to harvest does. Today things are considerably different; as many does as bucks, or even more does than bucks are taken annually on well-managed places. But there was a time…
Hunting antlerless deer (does) is not only fun, but rewarding in many, many ways, the least of which is the excellent venison they provide. More on that shortly.
When it comes to hunting does, consider doing so with an alternative method, meaning if you do not regularly hunt with a crossbow, or, handgun, or, air rifle, or, muzzleloader consider doing so to add a bit of spice to the hunt. In the process you might learn you indeed like hunting with those “weapons”.
I have long been a proponent of hunting with handguns. To me, one of the best ways to learn about hunting deer or other big game with a handgun is to use one when hunting does. Essentially, all does look alike, meaning they do not have antlers that are all different, so there is less “felt pressure” regarding how big or how small a deer might be. Too, there are generally considerably more opportunities at does than bucks, even where there is a close buck to doe ratio. If you do miss, it is not like you have lost the opportunity of a lifetime. There will likely be another opportunity coming by, soon.
In the process of hunting does with a handgun one too learns much about deer and hunting, but also about the handgun, sights and ammo used and the necessity of a solid rest when shooting, to the point of becoming extremely proficient with your handgun.
I recently used my .44 Mag Taurus Raging Hunter on a doe. The distance was 72 yards. She dropped in her tracks. This is the same Taurus/Trijicon/Hornady “rig” I hope to use to take at least a couple more does here in Texas during the MLDP season on ranches under the program. That season allows hunting through the end of February.
Earlier I mentioned venison and delicious meals. My favorite way to prepare whitetail venison, especially meat from the backstraps (loins) is to cut across the grain steaks about an inch thick. Remove any and all connective tissue. Trimmed, I place the cross-sectioned steak on a cutting board, then using a butcher knife, not overly sharp and start striking the meat thoroughly, then cross-hatch with more striking. Turn the steak over and repeat the striking making small cuts into the meat. When the selected number of backstrap steaks have been thusly prepared, I soak them in whole milk in the refrigerator for about an hour. Just before frying them in a cast iron pan in a mixture of olive oil and bacon drippings, place the steaks in a paper bag to which I have added flour, salt and pepper to your personal taste. In the bag I shake the steaks to coat them with the mixture. Properly coated, I place them in the hot cast iron skillet and fry them till the steaks are done. I am a bit different when it comes frying venison, I like mine medium to well-done, to where the outer coating of flour is crispy and the inside is gray.
I know, you are supposed to serve venison medium rare to rare, but fried venison I personally like a whole lot closer to well done! A personal preference.
All this about preparing fried venison is making me hungry. So if you will please excuse me, I think I will go fry up a batch of venison backstrap, some other fixing and then after I eat go hunting!