Thoughts From The Field

Blog posts by the team

Managing Bucks

Deer season is fast approaching and most hunters are checking cameras and making a list of mature deer to hunt this fall. However, every year I hear someone complaining that one or more bucks on their property has a funny looking set of antlers and needs to be stopped from reproducing.

1.5 year old buck, example of a deer not to cull

We passed this buck as a yearling and he developed into a nice buck as a 3 year old!

Some hunters label bucks with less than desirable antlers as culls or management deer that need to be removed from the gene pool. Many times these deer are simply young, immature, and have some unique and funky characteristics to their rack. While it may seem like killing a 1.5 year old buck with a freaky frame will result in improving the herd’s gene pool this is rarely, if ever, true. The reality is that removing such a buck from a wild, free-ranging herd is probably like dropping a pebble into an ocean and likely removing a buck that could’ve turned into a dandy.

It’s easy to forget that does make a substantial contribution to the herd’s genetic make-up. Currently, without a known pedigree there’s no way to know which doe and buck matings produced the largest bucks where you hunt. In fact, numerous studies have shown that trying to manage the genetics of a free-ranging deer population has little to no impact on antler quality.

If you wish to help the herd then simply give that “cull” buck good groceries, quality cover, and a pass until he’s mature. I’d be willing to bet that in a few years that weird looking yearling will be a desirable trophy and the memories made watching him grow will be far more rewarding than removing him this fall.

Sowing seeds for the future,

Kevin Shettle

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