Producing Mature Bucks
I have 1,100 acres near Ava with about 250 acres in pasture and the rest are typical Ozarks hills. I have about 15 acres in food plots, with the main food sources being clovers with turnips and some winter wheat. I can’t seem to keep bucks to the older ages. What should I do to draw and hold older class bucks? Since you have been here awhile you know what we have to deal with as to neighbors, etc.
That sounds like a nice property with lots of potential to produce mature bucks. Producing mature bucks requires protecting them from being harvested or killed by predators until they reach the age class that you wish to harvest. The habitat in “typical Ozark hills” doesn’t provide much cover. Therefore hunters and predators can have a huge impact on deer, especially bucks after the rut. In addition, without adequate cover, hunters must willfully withhold from harvesting bucks until the bucks reach the level of maturity that hunters wish to harvest. Mature bucks can be produced on almost any 1,100 acre property if that’s the hunter’s objective. Trigger finger control is the primary tool for producing mature bucks.
However, there is a big difference between producing mature bucks and producing mature bucks that have expressed their full antler growth potential. To produce mature bucks that express their full antler development potential requires improving the habitat unless the property has quality forage and grain production. It’s helpful to remember that the majority of deer in northern Missouri where world class bucks are produced were stocked from the Ozarks. Hence, deer with the same genetics that have access to quality forage and grain clearly express much more of their antler growth, fawn production, and body size potential. To allow deer in the Ozarks (or any area that doesn’t produce quality forage and grain) to express their potential requires lots of habitat work.
My property, The Proving Grounds, is extremely steep and rocky. There is no quality forage or grain produced within miles (counties). In addition, there are 34 neighboring properties, none of which share my deer management objectives that I’m aware. However, by providing quality food, cover, and water, bucks at my place are producing antlers similar to deer in northern Missouri of the same age class. Given you are only an hour from me, I’m very confident you can achieve the same results. I encourage you to attend one of our field days and see in person the techniques I’ve used to provide quality food, cover, and water. There are simply too many details to provide in t