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Thread: The "Dry Cow" Myth

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Default The "Dry Cow" Myth

    Dry cows...

    For the record, I am absolutely in favor of taking females when the population density calls for it and I harbor no ill will against, or pass judgement on any hunter who opts to take a cow where it's legal to do so.

    What I find curious is the somewhat common rationalization by hunters who have taken a cow or stated they would or might take one, using the term dry cow. This, I assume, is either a means of lessening their personal sense of guilt over taking a female, or an attempt to deflect any potential criticism from other hunters who hold the view that only bulls are acceptable quarry.

    I contend that truly dry cows, by virtue of age or some medical anomally are rare. True infertility amongst female ungulates in the wild is almost non-existant--maybe one in 100,000 individuals. Given that cow moose are sexually mature at 1.5 years old and typically bred for the first time at 2.5 years old, and remain fertile until age 12 or so it's statistically unlikely that any cow moose taken by a hunter was beyond her ability to produce calves. Cows too old to breed do exist and qualify as dry, but cows are fertile almost up to the ends of their lives and menopausal cows make up less than 5% of the total female population because they don't survive long after that age.

    Now it's entirely possible that an otherwise healthy cow might not get bred for some reason, or during periods of nutritional stress will sometimes experience fetal reabsorbtion but as discussed in earlier threads the most common reason for a cow being without a calf in the fall is the naturally high calf mortality rate. Most cows are bred and give birth and about half of all calves die before seeing their first snowflake.

    I guess my real question to every hunter who has ever claimed a dry cow or a dry doe is how do you know? Are you a biologist? Did you collect her reproductive organs and turn them in for analysis? Did you have her teeth wear-aged?

    I'm not saying hunters don't legitimately take dry cows, but most dry cows are old cows and most old cows are skinny and most guys who hunt for meat aren't interested in taking skinny animals. They want "sleek", fat and healthy, and rightly so, but that usually means a younger animal. A breeding age animal.

    So if you see a lone cow in September odds are she gave birth in May and her calf or calves did not survive. If you have an antlerless tag and no hang-ups about killing girls, go ahead put one in her boiler room and enjoy your moose burgers without a twinge of guilt. Just don't call her a dry cow.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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    Erik in AK:

    Perhaps, folks are using the term to mean only that the cow was unaccompanied by a calf.

    Personally, I would feel no guilt, except in the taking of a cow WITH a calf, or a calf.

    I see nothing wrong with taking a cow rather than a bull assuming it is legal, and therefore deemed appropriate. Who would?

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    My take on the label"dry cow" is that it refers to a cow that is not lactating;not infertile.

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    Member Erik in AK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Erik in AK:

    Perhaps, folks are using the term to mean only that the cow was unaccompanied by a calf.

    Personally, I would feel no guilt, except in the taking of a cow WITH a calf, or a calf.

    I see nothing wrong with taking a cow rather than a bull assuming it is legal, and therefore deemed appropriate. Who would?

    Smitty of the North
    Smitty,
    Considering that it's illegal to take a cow accompanied by a calf in most hunts/GMUs why the need to further qualify the choice of a cow with the term dry? Why not just say 'I took a cow' and leave it at that?

    My post was prompted by the conversations I've had over the years with hunters who talked about the females they'd killed in almost apologetic tones, often adding the addendum "She was a dry doe/cow". I see no need to apologize. A cow or doe is as worthy of being reduced to food as any male of the species. Make a clean kill and break out the knives.

    It's the little head-game I find curious, not the taking of cows.
    If cave men had been trophy hunters the Wooly Mammoth would be alive today

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    In the cattle industry, the term "dry cow" simply refers to a cow that is not lactating. I doubt that there has been a direct correlation of the term toward ungulates. Sounds like some made up, mix-n-match BS to me. Though, I do agree with Erik's assessment of the use of the term as an 'excuse' to try and make some kind of moral judgment.
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    Member PacWestFishTaxidermy's Avatar
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    1) I always used the term 'dry cow' for a non-lactating cow and never associated it with a barren cow.
    2) Who cares if people say it to make themselves feel better? We all have crutches and justifications, so why judge someone else's?

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    Default The "Dry Cow" Myth

    Seems like you're talking about a barren cow, which is a whole different thing than what I think of as dry which is without calf as mentioned.

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    No such thing as a dry cow, but kilt a bunch of dry does.

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    I don't really see the problem with the term "dry cow". Regardless of whether it means she isn't currently lactating or if it means she's truely a dried up old biddy who can't have any more calves, I really don't think you will hurt her feelings by calling her dry, and I don't see why anyone else would care.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    I think what the man is trying to say is that a hunter sees a cow without a calf and proceeds to incorrectly label it as a "dry cow" (and that's profiling, which we all know is "wrong" ). The hunter then uses the false label as justification for shooting said cow.

    I think, if you have to come up with falsified excuses for why you must shoot a cow, then you're participating in the wrong hunt. Call it what it is.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JOAT View Post
    I think what the man is trying to say is that a hunter sees a cow without a calf and proceeds to incorrectly label it as a "dry cow" (and that's profiling, which we all know is "wrong" ). The hunter then uses the false label as justification for shooting said cow.

    I think, if you have to come up with falsified excuses for why you must shoot a cow, then you're participating in the wrong hunt. Call it what it is.
    Yeah, and besides all that, it's probably raining.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smitty of the North View Post
    Yeah, and besides all that, it's probably raining.

    Smitty of the North
    What is the maximum allowed moisture level for a cow to be labelled "dry"?

    Profilers are the worst.

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    Quote Originally Posted by icook4 View Post
    My take on the label"dry cow" is that it refers to a cow that is not lactating;not infertile.
    This exactly!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik in AK View Post
    Smitty,
    Considering that it's illegal to take a cow accompanied by a calf in most hunts/GMUs why the need to further qualify the choice of a cow with the term dry? Why not just say 'I took a cow' and leave it at that?

    My post was prompted by the conversations I've had over the years with hunters who talked about the females they'd killed in almost apologetic tones, often adding the addendum "She was a dry doe/cow". I see no need to apologize. A cow or doe is as worthy of being reduced to food as any male of the species. Make a clean kill and break out the knives.

    It's the little head-game I find curious, not the taking of cows.
    I've not encountered it, but it sounds like you're probably right about those you talked to.

    Smitty of the North
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    Member AKHunterNP's Avatar
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    Default The "Dry Cow" Myth

    I've always heard the label of a dry cow as only meaning without a calf. I dont need any label to take a cow or a calf though. I call them prime meet or veal.


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    Member Spookum's Avatar
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    When im lucky enough to take a cow i make sure she is unacompanied by a calf. After i pull the trigger i am scared that i some how over looked her calf. When gutting her, i make sure there is no milk her her sack. This is a "dry" cow and i feel better. I think that you are actualy mixing the use of the term. If she is "dry" that means she had no milk, and therefor no offspring (im talking about right then, not the future chance to reproduce) . I guarantee the other four legged preditors that i am competing with in a "management hunt" wouldn't give a hoot either way, dry cow, wet cow rained on cow. Heck, a cow with a calf would be dinner and dessert!

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    By that logic... while gutting her, if you discovered milk, would you throw her back?
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    When any state has an open season for cows or does, their biologists believe the areas are at capacity, right? Therefore taking the prescribed females away from the population should benefit the animal and their habitat, right?

    These could all be correct or incorrect statements as they usually reflect political pressure rather than pure science. Hunters want to see game, insurance companies want no car collisions with animals, farmers and homeowners want less crop/property damage. Whomever has the greatest pull at a given time wins the decision and season limits are set. One would hope the best for the animal would win out but that isn't always the case.

    "Dry Cow" or not, the cow without the calf during the summer usually healthier, fattier, and will probably breed and have healthier calves the next spring. Hmmm, more moose if I let her walk... Freezer is empty, she goes down otherwise I let her walk and enjoy the experience.

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    Maybe use the term "Calf-less" or something less confusing. I have always looked at cows with out calves as dry because they weren't lactating as mentioned earlier. If they are unaccompanied and have milk in the ductwork after the shot whats to say the calf didn't just bite it to other predators recently? She is then calf-less.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I have been under the same assumption as Erik that people mean "dry" as past their reproductive years. I think I've gotten that from goat threads, though, and not moose. I've read a number of reports on here over the years of people taking "old, dry nannies" with the connotation that taking the nanny was more justifiable biologically because she was no longer able to bear young. Yep, nannies are legal to take and I congratulate anyone that is successful in taking a goat, but I've read the same thing into posts that Erik seems to be describing.

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