Bartylla on ‘doe factories’

For today, let’s talk about what these dreaded “Doe Factories” are and how to avoid them. The premise is simple, and was fairly accurately in its inception, yet has morphed into something that’s irreparably flawed and far closer to fantasy then reality.

What causes a “Doe Factory”?
Let’s start with how I firmly believe you can create the feared, loathed, dreaded and mourned for what’s been lost Doe Factory. It’s pretty simple, really. Give family groups (does, fawns & young bucks) a reason to spend a lot of time in what mature bucks want to use as daylight core/bedding area and the mature bucks tend to shift their daylight core areas to areas within their home range that they don’t have to put up with the women and kids running under foot. When one’s property is setup to get family groups to feed and bed all over, odds are those areas he shifts to aren’t going to be on your ground, leaving you with a bunch of does, fawns and young bucks to hunt, outside of the breeding phase of the rut.

You can essentially look at it that Mr. Big wants a man cave that gets comparatively low family group usage. Family groups can and do certainly step hoof in those areas. The real issues seems to be when the family groups want to use Mr. Big’s man cave as their midday fridge or their own bedding area, as well.

How it was First Reported
The first time I heard about it was somewhere north of 20 years ago. The idea was that if you improve every inch of your ground that you’d be overrun with does. That’s not completely accurate, but not really that far off. Though there are certainly improvements one can make in and around Mr. Big’s daylight core area. Add a bunch of food and/or certain types of bedding cover that draws family groups and you’re well on your way to driving Mr. Big off your grounds.

So, the original premise wasn’t truly wrong, it was just overly vague. No doubt, offering a surplus of food right around and/or within Mr. Big’s core areas is the quickest way to create the dreaded “Doe Factory.” Family groups are far less picky in bedding areas than Mr. Big is. The family groups will very often bed as close to their primary food sources as they feel they safely and comfortably can, where as safety seems to be far more important to Mr. Big. The natural end result is that mature bucks have the high tendency to bed further from the primary food sources, in areas they feel safe and generally not pestered near constantly by family groups, when they are in their daytime beds. The family groups most often want to bed near their primary food. In fact, when they aren’t, it’s a fairly safe bet that either there isn’t any areas around the food they feel safe OR the other, more dominant family groups force them out of where they want to bed and push them back into those buck core areas.

Not trying to be patronizing or generally an obnoxious jerk, but read the previous paragraph again, as it really holds the keys to making a bunch of setup and management decisions correctly.

The Popular Current Thought on “Doe Factories”
The cause of doe factories has morphed since those early days. Sadly, in my experience and opinion, its accuracy is now just next to being completely gone.

The idea is that one should focus on fall plots exclusively. In fact, I’ve seen one of those that push this new message the hardest say that deer have been living in Canada for many years, showing there is no need to address overwinter nutrition. They correctly stated that spring and summer are typically a period of excessive nutrition, which is true once spring green up occurs, but completely ignores that late springs, when spring green up is delayed, likely pushes more deer over the edge than the entire winter leading up to snow melt did (side note, which is why both timber work to create extra deer browse and planting cereal rye, which goes dormant in freezing temps during winter, but begins regrowth immediately after the thaw, where as it still takes weeks, as much as a month for new growth to start popping, can both be extremely helpful).

The other fact this ignores is that the rut is very hard on bucks, with winter in the Midwest and points north ranging from being stressful to flat out nasty. So, Mr. Big likely lost 25-30% body weight during the rut and his energy balance, derived from subtracting the energies burnt to survive from the energies they are getting from their food, is either flat lined or running a negative energy balance until spring green up.

Between building Mr. Big’s body back up and putting new inches of bone on his head, which do you think Mother Nature prioritizes to ensure the survival of whitetails as a whole? You all know it’s the body and that broken down, struggling bucks don’t come close to putting the inches on that one entering spring green up in decent shape does, which won’t add close to the inches he would if he entered spring in great shape. Now apply similar premises to does and fawns and their success at fawning and surviving.

That’s a long way of saying that deer will survive without us doing a dang thing. Yes, some will die, but the population will continue driving on, as Mother Nature is heartless to the individual, but extremely good to the betterment of the species as a whole. HOWEVER to pretend that Midwestern and northern deer can’t be helped GREATLY by offering overwinter and spring nutrition is either exceptionally disingenuous or blindly ignorant.

Along with not doing anything purposefully to enhance winter, spring and summer nutrition levels, planting clover is billed as being just shy of the kiss of death, as it offers doe drawing nutrition over winter (in large areas of the Midwest, anyway), spring and all summer long, as well as fall, but fall is apparently OK. That’s nearly as much a shame as anything in all of this, as clover can be a true workhorse for many managers (relatively cheap, easy and can produce ridiculous levels of extremely nutritious food production).

In a nutshell, the “modern” idea is, to avoid creating the dreaded doe factories, focus exclusively on fall, trying to generally ignore winter, spring and summer is THE way of avoiding inadvertently creating a doe factory.

The Real Solution
In a way, that last statement is true. No, do that and you likely won’t create a doe factory, because they are finding better nutrition else where. You’re merely creating a buck trap, by trying to suck them and the does back in over fall, allowing the neighboring grounds to shoulder most of the winter, spring, summer and early fall feeding, and essentially trying to kick them out as soon as the hunters have filled their tags.

There ISN’T a dang thing wrong with people doing that. Everyone has the right to do anything they legally and ethically can on their grounds, and this is certainly 100% included in that statement. However, whether this current method is being pushed because it fits one’s business model extremely well or because of ignorance, I think it’s critical that you all at least get that it’s mostly baloney, mixed with partial truths and flat out misconceptions.

Want to offer deer all they can want and need, better than they can get from the neighbors, resulting in the does, fawns, young bucks AND Mr. Big ALL spending disproportionate amounts of time on your grounds, while avoiding the feared, loathed, dreaded and mourned for what’s been lost Doe Factory? Assuming you have areas where Mr Big wants to bed to begin with, stack the food away from the established buck bedding areas, stack the does around the food and enjoy hunting more, healthier and bigger deer.

It’s not complicated at all and I’m EXTREMELY confident in what I just wrote. That confidence is based on property after property after property after property (I’ll stop, you get the point) I’ve managed offering reasonably close to the best of the best that ground can offer, almost always packing a higher density of deer on those properties than the surrounding grounds, family group numbers certainly going up, year round, but ALSO generally having the highest density of mature bucks in the area.

You CAN offer year round nutrition and manage properties with high year round deer numbers, while hunting more, bigger and healthier deer, WITHOUT creating a doe factory. Best yet, avoiding the Doe Factories is EASY, ASSUMING the ground was ever truly capable of holding mature bucks. Leave the buck bedding areas alone, pack the does around the food, shoot does when numbers get too high for the habitat to healthily support and enjoy feasting on top notch venison, while hunting bigger deer. NO, all dirt isn’t created equal and it won’t always work out that neatly on some of it, but that doesn’t change for a second that this idea of offering winter, spring and summer nutrition is what causes doe factories is horrifically flawed. Habitat plans/improvements that literally drive the mature bucks off the ground and/or grounds not capable of holding mature bucks anyway are easily the top causes of “doe factories.” NOT whether one offers winter, spring and summer nutrition……………………….All that said, no kidding you won’t have a doe factory if you do your best to focus exclusively on fall. Deer are drawn to superior habitat. Odds are, that habitat isn’t superior, outside of 1 month a year, if even that.

I could not possibly be more sincere when saying that you all should feel free to take whatever approach you believe fits your goals and situations best, including if you choose to just offer fall candy crops for hunting, seriously! My only issue is that we ALL deserve to base those choices on reality, not a thinly disguised sales pitch for services and/or book sales, well intentioned misinformation or pure baloney, whichever the motivating factor may be.

Hope something in there helps!

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