Is my goal of growing and hunting a 200″ buck realistic for my property?
I have a 1000 acre piece here in southwest Wisconsin. I have been improving the property since I bought it 5 years ago. I plant 40 acres of crops yearly for wildlife, including beans and corn as well as winter wheat and alfalfa. Twenty-five to fifty does are shot yearly and that still isn’t enough. I see (and shoot) 1-2 bucks per year in the 160-165 range, obviously older deer. My goal is to see/grow a buck in the 190-200 inch range, but I’m becoming skeptical that it can happen. These deer seem to top out in the 150-165 range at 4-6 years. Am I being naive about what this area can produce? There have been several deer over 200 inches shot in the surrounding 25 mile radius over the last several years. My neighbor killed a 186 typical 10 with 4 inches or better broken off a tine 2 years ago. What is realistic?
It sounds as if you have a great management program to meet your mission of producing mature bucks. To estimate the potential maximum BC score that can be expected from a property, I frequently attempt to find the score of the top ten bucks harvested in the neighborhood or similar habitat. I then consider the management potential of the property in question (amount of quality food, cover, and water), and the current practices on the neighboring properties. I also consider the size of the properties where the largest bucks in the neighborhood were harvested (why did those bucks survive to maturity?). It sounds as if you’ve completed a similar analysis.
Based on the information you have provided me, it seems realistic for a 200” class buck to be produced and harvested on/near your property. With that said, remember that producing and harvesting a free-ranging 200” class buck is a VERY rare event. If that is truly your goal, it is critical to make sure each deer has all the quality food, cover, and water they want. A good indicator that these conditions exist is if there is plenty of quality forage available during late summer and late winter. In addition, it’s best to pass all bucks until they are four years old or older so their antler growth potential can be estimated. Then, the best four year olds should be passed a few more years as many bucks don’t express their full antler growth potential until they are six years old or older. Yes, passing a 170” class buck is tough, but often necessary to produce 200” class bucks. Attempting to produce a 200” deer requires intense management and discipline. Each person must evaluate the costs and benefits, like we should in all activities in life.
Growing Deer together,