By John Sloan

What deer do we want to kill to achieve our goals? For me, I want to protect every buck less than 3.5 years old. From that point on, you do not need to protect them. Unless you are in Texas or using feeders, (I will not manage any land where feeders are employed.), they need no protection from hunting. They will die of something else way before you can hurt them by hunting. The simplest way to control that is just what I said early on. Few hunters can age a deer by body characteristics so go with an 8-16 AR. That will get most of them. If it does not, increase to 10-18.

Ideally you would have as many 3.5 and older bucks as you do younger bucks and as many 5.5 and up as you do 3.5. Don't worry about your does. They take care of themselves. Cull bucks? No such animal. That is just an excuse hunters use when they have ground shrinkage. Unless you are in Texas or behind a high fence, you or I would not know a cull if it hit us in the fanny. Let the spikes walk. They may be 10-points next year. Again, this all depends on what your goals are. If you just want to attract deer to kill, shoot whatever you want. Make sure you have the sex ratio in mind.

How many does do you kill? Rule of thumb, for the first three years, three does for every buck if you are trying to get a better sex ratio or reduce the total population. Tailor that to your goals. Most state biologists can help you. After that, just go 1-1 and you will be okay. Obviously, on some property, that will need adjusting. Small acreage, nothing you can do about sex ratio so shoot whatever is legal and you want to shoot.

Now the obligatory word of warning. If you are successful, you are not going to see as many deer. You will not see many big bucks. Just because you saw 137 young bucks last year, do not expect to see 137 bucks a year older this year. They are not stupid. In addition, when you start killing does, they get smart, too.

If I had 100 acres and wanted to fool with it, I would plant 50-60 acres of it in some seasonal food source from rye grass to corn to beans to turnips. I would have something tasty coming out of the ground every 60 days. In addition, I would hunt it sparingly, no more than once every 10-days during the season and maybe only with a bow. I would make that a hard and fast, inviolate policy. Not even brother-in-law gets to hunt more than that. If I caught anybody trespassing, I would nail them to the wall. Good deer management attracts poachers like flies to sour milk. You won't have any "trophy" bucks unless you did to start with. What you will have done is create a haven for deer. You will attract and hold deer and the more your neighbors hunt, the better for you.

Some years ago, I took a management project on 640 acres in AL. It was perfect. I was given complete control from the word go. The deal was it was an investment project. Guy bought the land and was building a hunting paradise to resell. I had all the equipment I needed and an open checkbook.

On the 640 acres, I created 31 food plots of varying size and shape. I planted everything from popcorn and beans to chuffa and clover mixed with rye grass. I made three ponds and placed 81 stands and shooting houses. I created four safety zones. I had some trees cut and some burning done. By the time I was done, the "lodge" was done. Dang that was a pretty place.

I left a detailed plan for kill numbers, sex ratios and collected my check. I was to return in 60 days and see what, if anything needed to be done. It never happened. The guy sold the place for a 150% profit and gave me a bonus. It then became a very exclusive, corporate hunting club. I have to say it was a beautiful place.

Caveat: Somewhere somebody is going to say, you don't practice what you preach. You shoot little bucks. You are 100% correct. I do. I am not at all interested in big racks. I have enough of them. I shoot whatever I want. I may pass a buck three times during bow season as I did this year. Then shoot him with a rifle just because I wanted to.

That right there is the golden rule. Manage your land, the way you want. As long as it is legal, have at it. I no longer do any consulting, can't travel or walk well enough. However, I enjoyed a project now then. I hunt when I feel like it and shoot or don't shoot depending on how I feel that day. Had the owner not sworn me to secrecy, I would love to describe a 135-acre farm I hunt.

I am the only one allowed to hunt or even be on the place. With the exception of some habitat manipulation, I do no management. It is impossible to kill enough does to effect the population. I usually shoot 12-15 does and maybe two bucks a year. There are more deer on the place now than there was 13 years ago when I first have to hunt it. No big bucks because the neighbors on all sides do as I do, they shoot whatever they feel like and cannot be talked into doing differently.

That place is a perfect example of why I say, on small tracts of land, unless all the neighbors for quite some distance all agree, you can't effect the age or size of your deer and probably not the sex ratio. However, you sure can attract them to your property.

Deer Hunting - Creating clearings

I love these little clearings back in a thicket. They are easy to make, too. I like them just about a bow shot in all directions. 50-yards by 50-yards with a tree or two in the middle. I have killed many deer in this one. I have seven of them on this property and a stand on each one.

Deer Hunting - Turnip gardens

Even a backyard turnip plot draws deer in the late season. I love turnips and forage carrots for the late season.

Deer Hunting - Mature bucks

A few of the average bucks we could expect at the big plantation. This is about as good as mature bucks got and better than the state average. We killed about 150 like this every year.

Deer Hunting - Two bucks in two states

Two bucks on two separate properties in two states the same morning. That is not customary with a bow but even a blind hog can find an acorn.

Deer Hunting - Late season, frozen turnips and a muzzleloader

In the management of any game species, strict adherence to the game laws is sometimes a hindrance but always a must

Deer Hunting - Managing game species

Late season, frozen turnips and a muzzleloader. It was -13 that morning and I don't believe I could have taken 30 more minutes. Obviously, from "up North" this buck weighed 308 on the hoof. He was 3.5 years old.