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John Jackson

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By 8 years ago

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When do you let them walk on by.

As a property owner, white tail herd manager, and owner of a wildlife nutritional supplement company, I have spent countless hours observing and studying herds and individual white tail deer. While in my teens and twenties, had I been hunting and seen a nice 8-point, I would have wasted no time in harvesting it.
Having had the chance to study whitetail and their habits, as well as their life cycles, I am shaken by how wrong that hunting mind-set is. That young 2-3 year old 8-point, while a nice deer, is the core of your herd breeding and sustainability. That is exactly the deer you do not want to harvest. DUH! The things you learn as you age.
It is important that we experienced hunters and outdoorsmen/women teach novice (and even a few experienced) hunters what to do when looking to harvest an animal. In hunting a deer, it is vital that hunters learn to look for the signs of age in a deer, and allow those 2-3 year olds to walk on by. Look for that declining 4-5 year old instead. Tell me what you think? What about Elk and Moose? Same issues?

Comments

Mike Richardson

Mike Richardson

I live and hunt in South Western PA. I have been a meat hunter all of my life. The first legal buck (3 points on one side would get it) I started letting the smaller bucks go last year and had 2 chances at big PA bucks. It is tough for a buck in PA to make it to 3 years old. The state has around 1 million hunters in the woods on the first day of rifle season. I would not say that harvesting a smaller buck is wrong because as long as the animal is harvested legally and all of the meat is used it is a trophy in my book, but letting the smaller bucks walk and being selective gives you a chance to see the real potential these little guys have to offer in a few years. I hope i can keep my standards to harvesting at least 2 year old bucks or better but it is hard to sway from the mentality that if i pass a deer on of the other million guys out there will take him. I did good last year but ended up eating tag soup but looking back it was my best year in the archery woods to date with having 2 chances at mature PA buck on highly pressured public land.
John Jackson

John Jackson

PA does produce some big deer when they are allowed to mature! While I will stand by my idea to let the 2-3 year old to walk, the local environment does need to be considered. If you have an over population and culling and thinning are needed, by all means be a conservationist and good steward and help out. In Tennessee our meat hunters (Those who hunt to fill a freezer for a year of consumption) are thrilled with the idea of Doe season or special doe tags. Not an official count, but I do recall someone saying that here we have about a 12:1 ratio of does to bucks in an average year. I would dare say these stats are made up mainly of yearling does, but regardless, they are good for the freezer and you're doing the herd a favor by not letting them get too numerous for the given environment. It's all about self-education and being a good steward. What may be good for them may not necessarily be entertaining for you, but to let a "monster" walk for the sake of the herd is admirable and certainly a reason for video! Thanks for the input Mike.
Todd Quinn

Todd Quinn

You said to look for the declining 4-5 year old buck to harvest, but In my opinion a buck 4-5 years old is in his prime and not declining until around 7years old. On that note, I used to use the 8 point or better rule, which in my area is helpful as most people shoot the first deer with antlers they see. Now I am more selective, I like to look for the large bodied older buck. For meat I take a couple nice mature does and put them in the freezer, then hunt for the large old bucks. Its not often that we find them, but we do manage to get a couple each year. And by us, I mean my brothers, and hunting buddies, and our kids. I encourage people to fill the freezer with does, taking the pressure of needing the meat. That way they can concentrate on the big bucks.
Zack Doyle

Zack Doyle

Todd is exactly right in stating that whitetails typically reach peak maturity at 5 years of age in most areas of the country, and do not decline until after that. However, from a breeding standpoint, your 2-3 year old whitetails are going to the majority of the breeding, mostly due to the fact that there is a much larger abundance of them. Harvesting those 2-3 year old bucks will not effect your deer population numbers negatively. It will however have an effect on the antler potential of that particular 2 or 3 year old buck at age 5. Regardless of whether you have a 1:1 ratio, a 1:15 ratio, or a 15:1 ratio, all available does will be bred. Here in Pennsylvania, I'm looking for bucks at least 3 years of age. We are in the 12-15:1 doe to buck ratio range in the areas I hunt. Due to our enormous number of hunters, bucks rarely make it past age 3 in our state, and shooting a 5 year old is seldom done. More intensive management on the part of landowners is now starting to take hold, and the age structure is beginning to shift. We are seeing some older age class bucks, and due to that structure, seeing bigger bucks as well. 3 is my minimum age limit country wide right now, but if I owned a large piece of property in the midwest, it would bump up to 4-5 strictly based off the fact that I could manage the property properly.
John Jackson

John Jackson

The worst part of all of this is that the majority of hunters pay no attention to the age of the deer. Most have no idea of what signs to look for when doing a "selective" hunt or management.
Zack Doyle

Zack Doyle

You're exactly right, but I think it is beginning to come around. More and more hunters are taking the time to study and learn the signs that indicate a mature animal, and are more hesitant to kill bucks that haven't yet reached maturity. The more we talk about it, the more it is shown on television, and the more people see trophy quality bucks being killed, especially in areas where they weren't 20 years ago, the better management will get.
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