The buck to doe ratio over much of the United States is probably somewhere around 1 buck per 3 to 6 adult does. This ratio is considered satisfactory for good production and recruitment of white-tailed deer if one is interested in a quick turnover in the herd. Basically, a sex ratio in favor of does can increase the size of the deer herd very quickly. As a result, many young bucks and does of all ages are available for harvest each year. This is good for maximum production, but is not necessarily beneficial for optimal quality production.
Ideas on the ideal buck to doe ratio can be quite varied and controversial in some cases. Depending upon the part of the country you are located, the age of the person you are talking to, and a person’s general management philosophies, you will most likely get different answers from every individual you ask. But you know what, they may all be correct. There is no single correct answer for every property out there. However, there are some good rules of thumb that could help you out.
If you want to harvest a high number of deer each year, then maintaining many more does than bucks will definitely get you there. For example, let’s just say your hunting property is 500 acres. Assuming the proper carrying capacity for this land is roughly 50 deer (1 deer/10 acres) then a buck to doe ratio of 1:4 would mean your deer herd is comprised of 10 bucks and 40 does. If you have an overall fawn crop of 50%, meaning 20 fawns survive through the summer. With this in mind, you must now remove an excess of 20 deer on your property come fall hunting season to keep the overall population size in check with the available habitat.
You must harvest 10 bucks and 10 does each year to maintain a sex ratio of 1:4 and keep the deer population and the proper density. This sounds great, but it will limit the number of mature bucks you will have in your population and result in you shooting a lot of does each year.
If you want to maintain some better quality bucks and have an improved buck age structure, you may want to lower your buck to doe ratio possibly to 1:2. This would put your hypothetical herd on your hypothetical 500 acres at 17 bucks and 33 does. Now, an overall fawn crop of 50% puts your fawn production at 16 animals. You can maintain this sex ratio by harvesting roughly 8 bucks and 8 does each year. It also allows you to leave some older bucks out there while also maintaining a proper deer density.
In order to promote an even better age structure in your buck herd, you may want to go consider a 1 buck to 1 doe sex ratio, 1:1. Let’s go back to the hypothetical ranch. The 50 deer on the ranch would now consist of 25 bucks and 25 does. A 50% fawn crop means about 12 fawns. This may look scary compared to the other numbers, but keep this in mind. To keep your deer numbers in check, you only need to remove 12 deer, 6 bucks and 6 fawns. This makes your deer management program a bit easier just because you don’t need to remove as many deer, but another great thing happens as well.
Remember, with a ratio of 1:4 you had to remove all of your adult buck herd to maintain the proper number of deer on you ranch, but with a 1:1 ratio you only have to remove 6 of the 25 available bucks. This means instead of shooting 10 yearling bucks under a 1:4 ratio, you are shooting 2-3 mature bucks, a couple of middle-aged cull bucks, and a couple of low quality young bucks.
With an improved sex ratio, the quality of bucks on your property will improve because on an improved age structure and maintaining your deer numbers will become easier.In short, sex ratios make a difference!