Timing is everything. I just spent 4 days at The Kentucky Proving Grounds with my friends Grant Woods and Adam from GrowingDeer.TV, and the rut is about to bust loose. Notice the emphasis on "about." Translation: I was early to the show. But I got more than my share of action with some trophy doe hunting.
Trophy doe hunting?
That's right. Not one ... not two ... but three times my thumper just about jumped out of my chest as I came to full draw and released arrows on three wise old does. I didn't get to come home with a pile of sharp bones to hang on my wall, but great rewards came in the form of delicious flesh and knowing that I helped contribute to the future of a rock-solid deer herd.
Grant estimates that The Kentucky Proving Grounds—a property he helps manage with landowner Mr. Terry Hamby—would benefit significantly from a reduction of about 50 does. The reason is simple: There's only so much food available to support the herd and provide optimum nutrition throughout the year. A herd that's fully nourished all year long will mean healthier individuals, a healthier population and ... more antler production.
This spring, if you had looked at the numerous thriving food plots (despite a drought year), it would've been difficult to believe that there's "not enough food." Now, with plenty of time still remaining before the demanding winter months, it's clear that the food plot buffet isn't all-you-can-eat. The plots are getting rocked. Take into consideration that Mr. Hamby's property is next door to Fort Campbell—more than 100,000 acres with a surplus of hungry ungulates—and the picture starts to become easier to see. The lush green fields of The Kentucky Proving Grounds are like a glowing boulevard of 24/7 neon diner signs to local deer.
Grant and I were able to take five does. I shot three and he shot two. My first doe greeted me below my stand at dusk during my first evening sit. She cautiously marched in behind her two fawns, en route to feast on some clover that lines one of the many gravel roads on the property. I sent a razor-sharp G5 Striker aboard a Carbon Express Maxima Hunter down to her as she stood at 10 yards. The shot was steep—too steep. (More on that to come in a blog post next week.) Thankfully, we recovered her the next morning before a thunderstorm.
The second morning hunt of my trip found me with Adam—his camera gear in hand. We sat along another deadly section of gravel road lined with clover on both sides. As the fog cleared, deer showed up for their morning commute to breakfast, feeding on acorns and clover along the road, eventually making their way to a brassica food plot. I shot two wary does within 1 hour—both on camera. I'll share the footage when it appears on GrowingDeer.TV.
Doe management can mean exciting hunting opportunities with plentiful rewards.
Each day, scrapes began showing up by the numbers. Bucks were seen chasing does. Grant analyzed an ovary from one of our does at the skinning shed, noting that she was on the brink of going into heat—about a week away. On my second to last night a mature buck lingered just out of range, tagging closely along with two does. He didn't make a repeat appearance on my final night.
Needless to say, all of this got me counting vacation days and considering my workload at the office. But inevitably, here I am, sitting at my desk chair like many of you, grinding my teeth and feeling the itch. It's all part of the game, but play hardball if and when you can. The rut is about to bust loose.