Ask MeatEater: Is It OK to Shoot Fawns?

Ask MeatEater: Is It OK to Shoot Fawns?

You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers (and if we don’t, we’ll make them up). Every day, fellow MeatEaters send us more than 100 emails regarding hunting, fishing, cooking, conservation, and more. So, we decided to publish a series dedicated to our favorite FAQs. This is Ask MeatEater.

Decisions regarding what deer to shoot almost always involve a complicated mix of personal goals, management criteria, and emotion. The decision whether to shoot a fawn is no exception.

This is a complex dilemma from a management perspective. Fawn does (those that are 5 to 7 months old) are the least likely females in a herd to reproduce successfully that year. If you’re looking to harvest some venison but don’t want to aggressively cull deer numbers, a young deer like this is your best option. On the other hand, if you are trying to reduce deer numbers, it’s actually a mature doe that has the greatest impact per trigger pull. Another management concern when shooting fawns is that button bucks are notoriously easy to mistake for doe fawns. It’s always a bummer to walk up on a “doe” that’s really the potential future buck of your dreams.

Outside of management implications, another argument for shooting fawns is that younger deer are tastier and more tender. In Episode 227 of the MeatEater Podcast, Dr. Chris Calkins, a meat scientist, said that age is the number one factor for determining tenderness in any animal. But while you’re getting a better product, you’re also getting less of it. There’s definitely a quantity versus quality argument to be made with fawns versus mature deer.

Finally comes the part of shooting a fawn that you can’t really measure. Some might find it off-putting to target and kill a “baby deer,” especially after watching it frolick with its brother or sister and stay close to its mother’s side. To be honest, there have been times when I’ve felt that way myself. While hunting antlerless deer in the past I’ve had opportunities at fawns but not pulled the trigger because it just didn’t feel right. On the other hand, I’ve had moments when the freezer is bare and I just wanted to drop the first doe I saw—fawns not excluded.

All of this is to say that yes, it’s OK to shoot a fawn, but it might not be for everyone or every situation. And that’s OK too.

Feature image via Captured Creative.

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