STOP Killing Young Bucks!

Jul 10

STOP Killing Young Bucks!

Competition is good.  I’m a firm believer that Capitalism is the true American way.  Competition makes us better and ensures that we don’t get lazy.  As a wildlife biology student back in the 90’s I learned that some wildlife species co-exist in the same habitat without competition but others heavily compete for the same resources.  As a private wildlife consultant I have found the same to be true with a couple of my competitors.  In fact, there are some “wildlife consultants” who would appear to be competing with my firm when in fact we merely share the same “habitat” but utilize different “resources”.

I just finished reading an article in a newsletter produced by a very popular food plot company. The article was written by someone who described himself as a consultant.  Since he’s discussing his work with whitetails one would assume that he is my competition.  I would disagree.

I’ve always enjoyed reading this newsletter and still do to this day.  In fact, I’ve always enjoyed testing and recommending their products to my clients and I plant them on my own properties.  This article, however, is a bunch of bunk! (AKA, B.S.).

The author discusses buck harvest expectations on smaller hunting properties.  In other words, can you really CONSISTENLY expect to kill 4 1/2 + year old bucks?   I’ve had college classes in Big Game Ecology & Management courses that focused on harvest expectations and I’ve read several articles over the years, covering all angles of the discussion.  I wasn’t planning on reading another one until the author mentioned that many of his clients are faced with the “problem” of having unrealistic expectations.  As his client, I would personally find this offensive.  I completely disagree and would argue that hunters and managers (my clients and friends) are smarter than that.  The author is making a futile attempt to place himself on a platform by assuming that his clients are unrealistic and ignorant.  I find the opposite to be true; my clients are fully aware of their limitations but merely need some guidance and confidence to help raise the bar to what they deserve as hard working, successful landowners.  My clients call me when they know they can do better and they simply need a tangible set of action steps to do so.

The author feels it’s unrealistic for landowners in states like Alabama, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania (my home state) to “transition from taking younger deer to mature deer in the 4-5-year-old range.”  This statement frustrates me as a consultant considering it came from someone who is supposed to be a consultant!  He likens this unrealistic pipe dream to looking through a glass ceiling.

The fact is, it’s difficult to harvest 4-5 year old bucks when you’re urging your clients to kill them as two and three year olds.  I would urge the author to forget about his glass ceiling analogy and instead look in the mirror.  What are you doing wrong?  What kind of advice are you giving your paying clients?  What are you doing, if anything, to develop a sound deer management program on these properties?

Research shows that buck home ranges SHRINK as they reach these older age classes.  Doesn’t this make you wonder why we are failing as managers/hunters?  If someone was trying to kill your species 24/7 and you survived longer than 80% of the population wouldn’t you stick with what’s working for you?  Why would you pick up and move away from the territory you’ve come to know while evading danger and brushes with death!?

Again, I tried to flip the page but was further baffled by his next few statements.  As a passionate hunter who will be followed by a cameraman this year I was amazed when the author attacked “TV stars” by stating “if you’re intent on taking 160-180 inch whitetails like you see on TV you had better start hunting where the TV stars do.”  Think about this statement.  Sure many of those who have been successful over the years with television shows consistently hunt states like Iowa, Illinois and Kansas.  While I fully understand the science behind soil quality and antler/body mass, think about how many of these “TV stars” are seen killing two or even three year old bucks.  They’re not and that’s why they kill older bucks.  Many of these folks are actively managing their properties by passing all immature bucks, planting food plots, enhancing native habitat and monitoring antler development with trail cameras.  It’s time to get over the notion that mature bucks are only killed in the Midwest or Texas!  I study the Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett record books; clearly, the consultant who penned this article does not.  Mature buck kills (“book qualifiers”) are on the rise in the eastern U.S. and it’s because hard working private landowners are demanding better hunting through improved management strategies.

Challenge your threshold this year and pass a 3 ½ year old buck…after all, it’s the only successful approach if you want to kill him at 4 ½ +!

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