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>>GRANT: Daniel and I recently had the opportunity to hunt a couple of days in Eastern Kansas with our good friend Richard Hale.
>>GRANT: This hunt was short, but I always enjoy hunting with and learning from Richard. In addition, the hunt was extra fun because we were using the hunt like a bobcat technique. It simply means we’re stalking through the timber/native vegetation and trying to time those stalks where we’ll spot or be within range of a deer just before they arrive or even just after they arrive, like at a food plot.
>>GRANT: During one of our hunts, we quietly snuck along the edge of some timber and native vegetation, got to a corner – a right angle – and there was a pond – I don’t know 70/100 yards right in front of us – native vegetation all around that, and then past the native vegetation was a food plot.
>>GRANT: It was hot that weekend in Kansas. We believed the bucks were bedded in the timber – does as well – probably gonna come out, stop by that pond. That becomes our pinch point or bottleneck. Then filter through that native vegetation to get to the food plot.
>>GRANT: Might get to the food plot after dark, due to the heat, so we thought the pond would be the ideal pinch point to get within range.
>>GRANT: The pond had more value than just being a water source on a hot day. It’s been relatively dry for a couple of days or even weeks, so the creeks weren’t holding a lot of water, a few puddles here and there. And this time of year, the vegetation is maturing. It doesn’t hold as much moisture as in the summer or spring. Deer gotta get water somewhere because they’re not getting it from the food source.
>>GRANT: That was our strategy, and it worked out great as far as seeing deer. But because of the deer we observed, there’s some more information I’d like to share that should help a lot of hunters throughout this entire season.
>>GRANT: We saw a fawn, and several does just after the sun dropped behind the trees. You know, in Kansas the humidity is a bit lower, and as soon as the shadows come on, the temperature’s gonna drop a bit, making it more comfortable for me or deer to take a walk.
>>GRANT: The does and fawn appeared very healthy. And that’s a great testimony to Richard’s management skills of both native vegetation and his food plots.
>>GRANT: One indication of this is notice how round the hams on those does appear. That just means they’ve grown a lot, and they’re already starting to accumulate body fat to get through a Kansas winter.
>>GRANT: Then we spotted some antlers.
>>GRANT: That was a great-looking young buck, and not long after he passed through our observation window, another buck stepped out and it was also a good-looking deer.
>>GRANT: Even though these bucks had big bodies, I estimated they weren’t mature, and I’d like to share the reasons I gave them a pass.
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>>GRANT: As it often happens, the fawn appeared first. It was the first out of the cover of the timber. And then the doe stepped through, and I was able to notice that they had huge bodies. Their hams were kind of rounded. Their shoulders were a little rounded. I wasn’t seeing any indication of the bones sticking out. There was no hips being shown. These deer were in excellent shape and a large size. And that gave me a baseline of what to expect for bucks in the area.
>>GRANT: When the first buck stepped out, I could tell his legs appeared long. They even looked longer than that compared to the does I had just observed. Now, in reality they probably weren’t any longer. But this was an immature deer, and its chest hadn’t filled out. It wasn’t sagging down below where the legs meet the shoulders, which makes the legs appear long.
>>GRANT: When he turned broadside, I instantly noticed that his neck merged with his chest way above his brisket – several inches above his brisket. And that’s a very good indicator, even during this time of year, that it’s an immature buck.
>>GRANT: Putting it all together, really slim looking, legs appeared too long for the body, neck merged really high. You can kind of visualize that to the mature does we saw go through, and I estimated this buck was a year and a half old. Now, it had great antlers, and that’s to be expected in a big portion of the ag range or where there’s great habitat.
>>GRANT: Where there’s really good habitat, yearling bucks can sometimes produce 100-, 120-inch antler set. That sounds huge but remember they’re living in great habitat with low stress, and they can express much more of their genetic potential than a deer that’s living in a closed-canopy forest that doesn’t have a good food plot system or, you know, really struggling to make a living.
>>GRANT: When the next buck stepped out – I’m going back to that reference I had of the does that just crossed a few minutes earlier – he appeared about the same as a mature doe. If I could imagine covering up the antlers and looking at it, his body looked a lot like a mature doe. Neck a little bit bigger than a yearling but still merged really high on the chest well above the brisket. But his legs did not appear as long as that first buck. It seems like he was one year more mature, and his chest had developed a bit more, sagging just a bit further below where the shoulder meets the leg.
>>GRANT: I estimated this buck was two and a half years old, and I also estimate his antlers probably weren’t quite as large as that yearling we saw. Now, I’m not a big score guy. I love antlers, but I’m not down to, you know, really scoring it out in detail. I just love looking at them, and I know older bucks tend to have larger antlers.
>>GRANT: Side by side looking at them, I’m sticking with my estimate that the first deer was a year and a half and the second was two and a half years old. I think the antlers were pretty similar in size.
>>GRANT: And people may ask, “Well, how is that? Antlers get bigger with age.” And generically, that’s true, but there’s always individual characteristics.
>>GRANT: For example – man, I’ve told this many times. I was tied for the largest kid in first-grade class, but when I got to high school, a whole bunch of guys were quite a bit taller than me. Some deer, just like humans, express more of their growth of certain characteristics early and some express it later. And that’s one big reason culling doesn’t work. You can’t look at a year or two-year-old buck and know what their antlers are gonna be when they reach maturity.
>>GRANT: If you hunt in an area that has almost a total closed-canopy forest, whether it’s pines or hardwoods, the bucks there probably won’t express as much antler potential per each age class as they are in Kansas, Iowa, some big ag production state. When you’ve got that closed-canopy forest and there’s not as much growing down at the ground level as there is 200 yards that way where it’s getting full sun all day long.
>>GRANT: Fortunately, no matter where you hunt, the body characteristics we’ve shared in relationship of one part of a body to another hold true throughout the scale. It’s not like you’re gonna be in one area and boy their legs are just a whole lot longer in relation to how their chest sags versus another area.
>>GRANT: Deer may weigh 100, 150 pounds less for the same age in one place versus the other, but the arrangement or configuration of their body and the relationship from one part to another should be about the same.
>>GRANT: Breaking that down to a boots on the ground type information, a two-year-old buck is probably gonna be about the same size as a mature doe no matter where you hunt.
>>GRANT: So, a good trick is – if you can – force yourself to ignore the antlers. Maybe you’ve just seen some does in the same food plot or same cover area at the same time and look at where that neck meets the chest and relationship of chest to legs. Look at an older mature doe and look at the buck, and if they appear about the same that buck’s probably two – somewhere in there – and not expressed his full potential.
>>GRANT: Man, if you’d like to learn more or brush up on your skills going into hunting season about estimating a buck’s age, check out our episode 576.
>>GRANT: Another tip is if you’re blessed enough to maybe go somewhere else and hunt – on either side of the coin. Man, maybe you live in all-timbered areas on the Appalachians or the Deep South, and you’re going to Nebraska or Kansas, some prairie state, to hunt, remember that those bucks may weigh 250, 300, 350 pounds on the hoof. Depending on what time of year you’re hunting and the local habitat, that’s a big, ‘ole piece of meat out there.
>>GRANT: So, a 150-inch rack on top of a 300-pound buck might not appear as big – rack compared to the body – as 130-inch rack on top of a buck that weigh 150 pounds.
>>GRANT: Now, I’ve seen a lot of people, or known a lot of people, that passed up a buck maybe in Kansas or somewhere like that and send me a picture and go, “Man, I just saw the greatest buck. You know, it looked like it had pretty small antlers.” And I look at the thing and go, “My goodness! That’s 150-inch deer!” It’s just sitting. You’ve got this rack – 150-inches – sitting on an enormous body. So, the relationship makes the rack look a bit small or vice versa.
>>GRANT: Man, you’re in Iowa and you’re going hunting with your buddies in Virginia or somewhere. And, man, you go, “Man, I can’t believe all the 160s and 170s running around here. Man, those racks are just sticking out on both sides of the shoulders. They look huge.” Well, you got to remember those deer likely don’t weigh as much as the deer that are living in a soybean field all summer long.
>>GRANT: Just a reminder, and I want to tell you, man, if you’re hunting legally and you’ve got the landowner’s permission or you own the land or you’re hunting on public land, I don’t care what deer you harvest. I want you to have fun.
>>GRANT: And if you’re looking to put some meat in the freezer, and there’s a lot of deer in the area. And maybe they’re browsing up all the good native browse or food plot crops or hurting the local farmer’s crop, consider taking a doe, because as we just talked about, a two-year-old doe has about the same size body as a two-year-old buck in a lot of places. And that means you’re gonna get about the same amount of meat from the carcass and have the satisfaction of helping the herd and the habitat by your harvest.
>>GRANT: Learning more about deer hunting or deer biology is a great way to enjoy Creation. But it’s way more important to take time daily to be quiet and listen to the Creator and learn His will for your life.
>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.