Would you do it?
I'm lucky to have a very nice piece in Kentucky of about 250 acres to hunt. It's a 50/50 mix of woods and swamplands and it's all completely surrounded by agriculture (corn this year) totalling perhaps another 1,000 acres. There are only something like 4 or 5 houses for about 1.5 miles in the area and it's a very rural area. I hear almost as many horse-drawn wagons as cars go by while hunting.
Anyway, as you might guess, it's a very good area and has proved fruitful for us over the last 5-6 yrs. There are normally some nice big bucks shown on our cameras before the seasons start. Well, last season I ended up with a serious dilemma and I was wanting some opinions as to what you all might have done.
I missed opening weekend due to another hunt I had planned in Indiana (I lucked into a nice deer there) and did not hunt Kentucky until about Thursday of opening week. On my 2nd or 3rd day out, having seen no big bucks thus far, I had a buck chase a doe right by (actually to) my stand location. As he got closer I noticed something odd about his antlers.
When they got close and stopped right close by I could see his antlers were deformed & unusual looking. He was obviously a mature buck, but both sides were pretty small and one side was badly deformed. And there he was, chasing and trying to breed a doe right in front of me. I realized I'd already also seen him at least once before at a distance, but had no shot and could not make his rack out well enough that time anyway to use my single buck tag on him.
So, my dilemma? Should I use my lone buck tag (license was $190) on this sub-standard buck so he would not breed any more does, or simply let him walk and wait for a nice mature racked deer. I did not want the deer and had not shot a buck that small in many years. But, there he was about to breed within "our" local population and perhaps spread those non-desirable genes even further.
Again, he was a large bodied deer and mature, simply had a genetically inferior rack. Not broken, simply bad formation to the extreme. My question is would you use your one tag to try and keep the genes from being spread throughout your hunting area, or simply let him walk?
My decision? I waited until he was almost out of sight in the brush before doing what I finally decided was the "right" thing and taking him with my Marlin .375. That decision has since kept me awake for many nights and I'd simply like some feedback on what some of you would have done in that situation. My decision may have been helped along since I'd already harvested a nice Tn 8 pnt in muzzleloader season and a brute of an 11 pnt in Indiana, before whacking this one. But it sure didn't help knowing I had no more buck hunting to look forward to for the rest of Kentucky's seasons.
Your opinions, please! Thanks.
Rest assured,,, you did the right thing. Sometimes you have to "take one for the team", if you will. Well you took one for the team b/c now your herd will be better and stronger in the future. Alot of what we do during deer season effects the herd for many years to come. By shooting that deformed buck, you took out the chance that he would continue to breed does and thus having more and more deformed bucks. If you are truely a big buck hunter and you like the big racks.. then you did the right thing! My vote is YES, I would've done the same.
Well I am a meat hunter & for the most part could care less about the rack so I would have taken him
if I were a "trophy" hunter I would most likely took him out
& used my only tag not to see antlers like that in the future
so either way you did the right thing
Please understand I am not criticizing you at all but will give you the straight genetic facts from biologist research.
Up front disclaimer: A deer that starts as a spike will never be as big as a deer that starts off as a 3-4pt (nutrition/health considered equal). However, a deer that starts as a spike can grow to be a 140+ trophy deer.
1. What is the age of the deer?
In the picture he doesn't look older than 3 1/2. It is proven that deer do not reach their rack and body maturity until at minimum 4 1/2 yrs and start to go downhill at 6 1/2. And you would be amazed at the jump a deers rack can take from one year to another. I have personally seen a button buck go to a mainfram 8pt with a 16" inside spread in one year.
2. Do you have the sheds from that deer for the past years?
If you have just seen this buck and have no antler record of him then maybe he fell on hard times this year and actually had much better potential for next year. Maybe lack of right type of food, sickness or something hit this deer.
3. Do you harvest the smaller does in the area?
As much as we all love to say the bucks decide what the young will be, you have to remember basic biology and say that its 50/50. Your larger bodied, more mature does will lead to better offspring. So if you are concerned about the young, you need to take both bucks you don't want along with does. On the flip side, if your population is too high, you need to harvest more of your older does because as does age they become more success in reproduction (older does can have up to 4+ fawns while younger ones average 1-2).
4. What types of racks do you like?
I for one don't cull bucks because I don't like a standard rack look. I HATE when you see these ranches and all the bucks are the same, mainframe 8s, 10s, and 12s. I like the palmated racks and odd points and bucks like these (especially if he was only 2-3 1/2) could have bred some really neat racked/monster young. Combined with the right DNA from a doe and nutrition these deer could be great trophies.
5. What is the deer density of the area?
The number of deer you have in an area can actually affect the rack size. If your area is over carry capacity, there is less food for even the best genetic bucks and they can have poor racks for a few years.
6. You can never be sure which bucks are doing the most breeding.
Research is conflicting saying that more mature bucks breed more does, while other research shows that more mature bucks actaully breed less because their movements have become very restricted (wise and old and doesn't take many chances;even for a chance at a woman lol).
Take away point I would stress is that managing for big bucks often means that you need to harvest more does. The way to achieve large bucks is (happens as a by-product) making sure you have a balanced sex ratio along with age ratio.
Hope this helps future decisions on management of deer herds. And good shot/kill on your buck
Oh and after that rant, I would say that I probably wouldn't have harvested him lol
Because we had very few nice bucks and low nutrition I was used to shooting weird rack bucks every year in PA. For those who can maybe manage an area for quality purposes you did the right thing, however, when you factor in predation, auto hits, and normal movements maybe he would have not been around for next year and who ever knows what genetic blend creates the next buck's rack. Remember the spike gene therory, (spell) most cases say given proper nutrition those bucks would have become branch antlered bucks, so who knows. Fact is a harvested buck is a harvested buck and only the shooter can decide if the trigger is used. I've never gotten madd or questioned myself after a harvest, it was simply my decision that led to it. I fully understand your question, but for me any buck is a good buck. I've never had the oppertunity to be selective, wonder what that feels like?? :shocking:
The rack was not broken at all, but simply semi-heavy with blunt points (a lot of rubbing, I'd guess) and odd formations to both sides. In 3 days of gun "rut" hunting he was actually the only buck I saw more then once cruising & then actively chasing. The other bucks I saw were much smaller bodied, and with smaller typical 8 pnt racks. I'd guess he may have been the dominant buck in this area, last season. I'd say he was 225# on the hoof and perhaps 180 dressed. To illustrate size, I had also killed a large doe we'd seen for a couple of seasons that was likely 6-7 yrs old and she dressed at 150, which is very large for our area, so the deer grow pretty well here due to the easy food pickins, typically.
The racks we have from this area show a lot of promise with an 8 pnt scoring 150" a few years ago. I've passed on 9 deer of 8 pnts or more the last two years there (including two last year before I killed this one), as those deer were quite obviously not mature. One that I saw on at least three occassions last year actually had a good limp (no apparent road rash or injury) that may well have been caused by this buck. Obvious speculation on my part.
Found the game cam pics, along with a 130"-140"(?) pic taken this season for body comparison:
I don't think I would waste my tag on it, but I would invite a friend over for a "special" hunt. ;)
Would I pull the trigger or not
It has been a rare occurance that I have had a chance at a mature antlered Buck, I am not someone that gets tons of days in the field each year. I do remember some smart words that basically said if you want to shoot a big Buck don't shoot a little one. You have an interesting case were you have a large area with great food/water. Personally I would not have shot if I was seeing nicer racks on small bucks. I would have reasoned that there has to be some older big rack bucks around if that was what I was looking for. I always figure that I am not in it for just bringing home the meat, a day in the woods hunting is wonderful whether I pull the trigger or not. My family would have starved long ago if we had to live on my skills as a hunter/fisherman.
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