Saturday, June 1, 2024

    Passing On Deer

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    When you first start encountering deer as a new hunter, it is exciting to see any deer. Whether a doe, young buck, or mature buck, it is a great feeling of accomplishment to bag a deer and get some meat in the freezer. I don’t think anyone should discourage new hunters from shooting any deer that gets their adrenaline pumping, as long as it is legal. However, if you hunt deer long enough, you will eventually get to a point where you find yourself passing on deer.

    Young 2 year old buck

    You might be waiting for any buck, or a doe, or a mature buck. We all choose not to shoot certain deer sometimes. One could argue that this is one of the primary differences between us and subsistence hunters. If you need the food to survive you are not going to wait for the perfect deer. In this scenario, you would shoot any animal you find. Considering how hunting would be different if we depended on it to survive is a fascinating exercise, though not a situation that most of us will ever find ourself in.

    As modern hunters, we are hunting to manage the population of wildlife. To do this requires that we know how to best manage a herd when we kill an animal. With deer, we strive to take older mature bucks. We all like the feeling of seeing or killing a deer with big antlers, but there are also reasons why this practice makes for good conservation. Older males in a population, especially large males, have passed on their genes many times before we shoot them. A dominant buck can breed 2-4 does in one year. By age 5, a buck may have as many as 35 fawns they have sired. This ensures that the genetics of that buck are passed on in the herd.

    It is also a challenge to target a mature buck. In a season, I see dozens of young bucks. They tend to be curious for a year or so and often make mistakes such as coming out during daylight too often or chasing does through open areas. A mature deer will not be so easy to get near. This increased difficulty makes for a more interesting and challenging hunt. It also helps extend the hunting season. By being selective and waiting for a difficult to kill buck, you ensure that you will spend more days hunting.

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    While we should never shame other hunters for targeting younger deer, it is our duty as responsible hunters to educate others about the reasons for holding out for mature bucks. Passing on young bucks can be tough to do, but the results are worth it when you begin to hunt larger bucks and even mature does. The herd benefits, the sport benefits, and you enjoy the satisfaction that comes with harvesting a mature animal.

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