Hunting Information for Pros

A healthy doe steps into the field just 20 yards from your stand, turns broadside and puts her nose into the clover. It’s the perfect shot and the perfect opportunity to put that first deer in the freezer, so you raise your bow, draw and find her front shoulder through the peep sight. Just before you touch the trigger on your release, the doe looks over her shoulder and you hear a twig snap back in the woods. Could it be that giant 8-point you’ve been watching all summer?

A fawn steps out, eases up to the doe and then starts grazing next to its mother. The decision to shoot that doe just became a little more difficult. The fawn doesn’t have spots and it’s eating the same thing as its mother, but you just aren’t sure. Shooting a doe with a fawn just seems like an ethical dilemma: Will killing the mother leave the fawn orphaned and less likely to survive?

“In most cases, no,” says Quality Deer Management Association executive director Brian Murphy. “Most states set their seasons so orphaned fawns are capable of surviving on their own, so it’s not really an ethical issue. However, there are some states that have late fawning periods and early bow seasons where it could present problems.”

That’s most likely to happen in regions of the Deep South where the rut is drawn out over months or takes place far later than the rest of the country. In some instances, fawns are born as late as July and are just a few months old in the early days of bow season. It takes about three months for a fawn to be completely weaned, although Dr. Charles deYoung, a biologist at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute in Texas, says it usually takes only about two months before a fawn can survive without its mother. He did note that fawns that don’t have access to their mother’s milk all three months often end up somewhat less healthy on average as adults, and typically weigh less than fawns of equal age that aren’t orphaned. In order to give fawns their fullest potential, Mississippi actually sets their antlerless seasons a bit later to allow fawns to complete that weaning period.