At what age should I “cull” bucks?

By Grant Woods,

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Dear Dr. Woods,

Me and some friends were discussing genetics or the lack there of. The questions is at what age do you harvest a genetically inferior buck or a buck that has some sort of antler “problem”? I noticed in one of your episodes that you passed on a buck with an odd rack that looked to be 3 y/o. Do you stick to your guns of only harvesting a 4 y/o and give the inferior gene another year to replicate? or do you harvest the deer at a younger age 2-3 y/o to get him out of the gene pool? Thank you for your time.



Recently we’ve shared footage of a buck we call Chainsaw!  He has very large antlers several kickers.  I confident almost every deer hunter would gladly tag Chainsaw.  I estimate this buck to be 4 years old. We don’t recognize Chainsaw as any of the bucks from our farm last year.  Chainsaw’s range also includes a member of our local deer coop and that landowner doesn’t recognize him either.  I suspect Chainsaw’s antlers are much larger this year than during any previous year.  Had we (or our neighbor) been tagging 3 year old or younger deer Chainsaw may not have survived to express his genetic potential.

I’ve seen this same pattern many times!  Bucks often don’t show their genetic potential until they reach 4 years old or older.  Several spikes that have been tagged or fitted with a radio collar have produced Boone and Crockett level antlers when they matured to 4 years old or older.  

Based on this and several research projects I do recommend passing bucks until the age criteria used where you hunt. It’s almost impossible to determine a buck’s antler production potential at younger ages.  

Remember that does make a huge contribution to antler shape.  The bottom line is that culling bucks without a known pedigree for several generations on both the doe and buck side is useless.  

Enjoy creation,