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Use Early-Season Doe Harvests to Sharpen Bowhunting Skills

As Phase One of 'THIRTEEN' begins for another season deer hunting action across the nation's whitetail woods, don't be afraid to use the time at hand to practice some sound herd management goals in addition to sharpening up bow shooting skills

Use Early-Season Doe Harvests to Sharpen Bowhunting Skills
Early season days during Phase 1 of the THIRTEEN phase whitetail season are the perfect time to practice herd management work and to sharpen bow shooting skills before the buck frenzy that is coming later this fall. (Photo courtesy of Drury's "THIRTEEN")

If you've watched Outdoor Channel program THIRTEEN over the past couple of years, one thing that stands out is the herd management opportunities Mark and Terry Drury take advantage of during the September 15-24 time frame, dubbed Phase One of the whitetail hunting season.

Editor's Note: The dates of the various “THIRTEEN” phases as presented by Team Drury are based upon the particular ground they hunt each year in the Midwest. These dates will vary slightly from region to region across the nation's whitetail country, so adjust accordingly based upon the time and conditions where you live and hunt.

Their reason for doing such herd management is actually two fold.

First, they want to make sure they keep the numbers of whitetail mouths to feed in balance with what their hunting lands can support.

And second, they want to stay sharp in their shooting abilities so they are ready to take advantage of big buck opportunities that may come their way later on in the annual fall deer hunting campaign across the American Midwest.

Take, for instance, a doe Mark Drury shot during Phase One back in the first season of filming for the show THIRTEEN.

"There's no daylight activity (sometimes) when we get into these periods, (so) we start doe hunting," he said.

Leading to a quick, clean harvest on camera as Drury notched a tag and practiced some doe management work.

"That's a trophy to me, a beautiful doe," Mark said after making the 25-yard shot and recovering the animal.

"That's the epitome of bowhunting right there," he added. "That's why we do it. It was a good, ethical, clean harvest."

In addition to putting some succulent venison into his freezer, Drury pointed to the ongoing work necessary to achieve the desired management goals on his land.

He admitted such efforts weren't always easy to do – mentally, at least – particularly after a hard bout with Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which struck the deer-rich Midwest several years ago.


"It's hard to get that (deer management) in my mind with the EHD losses (we experienced)," said Mark. "But as often is the case, the EHD affected a greater number of bucks than it did does.

"So all of a sudden, we went from going into the year with a balanced herd to now in the fall, (having) an unbalanced herd," he added.

"I (wanted) to balance it (the herd) back out so that the rut (was) not too taxing on the bucks."

For brother Terry Drury, the early-season harvest of a doe or two fits nicely into the management goals he also has each year on his hunting ground.

"I like to hunt the perimeters and I do my doe harvests (there)," said Terry. "It's always about managing for us, it's about trying to get that herd into a healthy environment.

"Sometimes, your buck-to-doe ratio is out of whack (though) and you have to effectively and consistently go in there and harvest does. And we do just that."

On the same episode of THIRTEEN mentioned above, Terry did his part, dispatching not one but two does that walked through virtually the same exact spot on the same evening hunt around a Mossy Oak Biologic field of winter bulbs and sugar beets planted in a secluded bottom area.

In addition to helping maintain healthy herd numbers and achieving management goals around such spots, the Drury's also view early-season management work as a chance to fine-tune the shooting skills necessary with their PSE bows to harvest a record book Boone & Crockett-caliber buck later on in the season.

For Mark, such early-season efforts helps improve his shooting accuracy and clean-kill efficiency when another giant buck wanders by in during the pre-rut, peak rut and post rut periods of late October, November or early December.

Proficiently making low-pressure shots on a mid- to late-September doe helps to reinforce proper shot angles from an elevated treestand, not to mention teaching once again the skills and discipline necessary to wait for the right shooting opportunity in an effort to make a clean, quick, humane harvest.

Phase One is a great time to perform some herd management chores by taking surplus does. (Photo courtesy of Drury’s "THIRTEEN")

"We always like to take a broadside to quartering-away shot within your effective (bow) range," said Mark.

"You want to make sure you're sharp and that you're ready," added Terry. "That's what it's all about (with early season management)."

Need another potential reason for practicing such management efforts during Phase One of the early-season game?

Well, it might be this ... on some warm and still early autumn evenings, a doe sauntering by in bow range might be the only game in town.

"One thing about the early season, the movement happens and then it is over (with)," said Mark. "They get to where they are feeding and often you don't get another chance."

Meaning the idea of shooting a doe might potentially mess up a subsequent chance at a buck later on in that same hunt doesn't always hold much water at this time of the year.

A case in point is a 2013 opening-day hunt Mark was on, one that made the final cut for the THIRTEEN show episode.

"My deer came out, they (were) 200 yards away and I'm already out of the game," lamented Mark on camera.

But before that particular episode of Phase One teaching had concluded, both Mark and his brother, Terry, had punched some doe tags and practiced what they preached.

As yet another season of the THIRTEEN deer hunting grind began in earnest on deer hunting ground they frequent in the American heartland.

If the land whitetail hunt supports a little deer management work early on, don't be afraid to follow Mark and Terry's lead.

And that's to punch a doe tag or two to balance out the herd numbers, to sharpen your shooting skills and to put some of the best wild meat the Good Lord has ever created onto your backyard grill.

Right smack dab and in the middle of the Phase One opening bell to the whitetail hunting season.

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