Filling Doe Tags

Anyone who hunts knows that there is some discussion to be had on filling doe tags. I know people who never would pass on a doe if they have the tag, and then I know others who would never shoot a doe, even if they had a tag in their pocket. There are sides to be heard on both ends of the argument, but personally? I will fill my doe tag with contemplation and consideration. Massachusetts runs their doe tag system like a lottery. Since the state does this type of a system, I don’t really feel bad using my tag, because they are only giving out an allotted amount. The amount of tags are based on population patterns and how many doe were tagged in the previous seasons. Let’s face it, meat in the freezer is meat in the freezer, whether it’s from a big buck or a doe. HOWEVER – I try to carefully consider certain elements in my situation rather than simply taking the “if it’s brown it’s down” approach.

I personally do not ever want to shoot a skipper (last year’s baby) or a momma doe with her fawn. I find it in poor taste. Hunting is already a fair sided sport in my favor over the deer. I mean, come on, we definitely already have the advantage. So WHY would I want to shoot a baby deer? Or a mama deer whose baby won’t survive without her? Where’s the sport? It just puts a poor taste in my mouth. If too many young deer are shot before they mature, the deer population could potentially be affected over time. So what do I do? I used to just say “Well, I am just not going to shoot a doe” but after hunting this past season with a doe permit I have changed the way I think about using the tag.

One of the first things I asked my dad and several others, when I got a 2020 season doe tag, was how on earth can I tell the size of the doe? I don’t want to shoot from afar and then go up to my game and find a 60lb skipper. The thought just made me sick. Bucks are easy – how big is the rack? But with a doe, you don’t really have anything to give you a gauge on the size of the deer. I used to think that if I just assessed the area before I got in my stand, I could use my surroundings to determine the size of the doe; but when you see a deer in the woods everything changes. My adrenaline pumps up and I freeze. Everything surrounding the deer is irrelevant. Buck fever is no joke! After asking almost all the hunters I know, I came to the conclusion the best way to tell the size of a doe is by the length of the snout. So, this is what I try to use to determine the size of the doe. If she is alone and I feel good about the size and my shot then, odds are, I am going to take the shot. But if she has a fawn with her, or there is a buck around, I’m not going to shoot. If hunting was simply about killing, I would have no problem with the “if it’s brown, it’s down” mentality – but it’s so much more than that.

I don’t think less of anyone who fills their doe tag. Not one bit. Maybe that doe was the only deer that the hunter has seen all season. Maybe that hunter only has one day that week to hunt. Maybe that hunter needs the meat for their freezer. In many cases, all of these could be true about the same hunter. However, I think it’s important to think ethically and logically. I mean, which would you rather have your picture taken with: a 50 lb skipper or a 120 lb doe? There’s NEVER any shame in passing on a shot that you don’t feel morally or ethically right about. I urge you to consider that every time you pick up your gun with the intention of pulling the trigger. Being a good shot and bagging the game doesn’t make you a good hunter. Ethically choosing when NOT to shoot can make the difference between a mediocre, wannabe hunter and an excellent sportsman.

6 thoughts on “Filling Doe Tags

  1. I am one who has never held a doe tag and a little reserved on getting one. Kudos to you for applying for one and exploring that avenue. Maybe someday I will.


  2. I’ve been a Hunter a long time, taken my share of deer and have applied and gotten a number of Doe tags.. sometimes I fill it sometimes I don’t.. I won’t shoot a small doe or a mother with yearlings! Over time it’s easy to figure out the size of a deer it’s just from experience… I’ll take a big doe if I have a tag…


  3. To each their own. You applied for the tag for a reason so use it. And the state has allocated so many in the hopes of keeping numbers in check. And to choose not to use it and pass on does seems selfish as another hunter who didn’t get one could possibly have filled his/her freezer with it. It’s no different than anti’s getting tags so they won’t be filled. At the rate of deer population and the rate we are building, cutting of hunting area we will be like NJ. In less time than you think. I’m 52 and as a kid I saw a deer every now and then now I see a few nearly every morning just going to work. In northern Maine I would and have been more selective as deer numbers are fewer. Here in MA. not so selective.


  4. I’ve been a hunter who has been lucky enough to have drawn a bunch of doe permits over the years. I was always taught not harvest does with skippers or skippers.
    My father always told it’s about the hunt not the kill. Don’t get me wrong it’s nice harvest that animal.
    One day I passed up a shot on a doe and her skipper. I did question my self on it. I asked my dad . He asked could I’ve had shot her. I said yes. Then he asked did I regret not taking the shot. I said no. He then said you did the right thing.
    The world right now is challenging everyone’s beliefs.
    I’m not here to do that. Do what you think is right and be proud of that .
    We need more young men and women into this great hobby of ours let not discourage them.


  5. I need to go back and amend on my last couple of lines . Be proud of the decision you made when it’s the legal and ethical one.


  6. I always apply for local doe tags because, in theory, it increases the chances of meat in the freezer. I also have no issue with filling a tag with a skipper. A couple skippers I’ve taken I shot not realizing they were skippers, my first muzzle loader deer and this years MD muzzle loader ( a trend?). On the other hand I had a skipper with spots about 9 yards from me and saw spots. Nope….. Hunt your own hunt. As long as legal. I have read that in Europe taking a young of he year is not looked down upon, in part because they are the least likely to survive a harsh winter.


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