Early season deer hunting can be very effective because white-tailed bucks are more easily patterned prior to the rut. Novice deer managers may think that removing a high quality buck prior to the rut is a bad idea because it limits the buck’s ability to pass on his genes. Yes, harvesting a buck prior to the rut does limit his ability to pass on his genes, but it does not limit the ability of his offspring. When it comes to deer management we must manage the deer herd, not individual animals. If you manage the herd as a whole then good things will happen.
The most important aspect of managing the buck segment of the deer population on your property should be maintaing good quality bucks in each age class. If you are interested in improving antler quality of bucks then inferior bucks in each age class should be removed. Bucks that are deemed inferior (by your standards) in the yearling, 2 1/2, 3 1/2, 4 1/2 year old age classes should be removed each year. By doing this you ensure that only the best quality bucks remain each year, pass on their genes, and once mature are ready for harvest.
Keeping the best quality bucks at each age class ensures that your best bucks do the breeding. With this said, you can harvest that great 5 1/2 or 6 1/2 year old buck because you know that his genetics will be passed on by the bucks and does that he has sired over the years. This is exactly why you can remove that great buck pre-rut. On the flip side, if you continue to keep less than desirable bucks in the herd then expect them to continue to sire less than desirable bucks and does that contribute to your deer herd, too.
With this fact in mind, pre-rut hunting is very important. It not only allows you to pattern mature bucks prior to the breeding season, but also those bucks that you would like to remove prior to the rut. Remove inferior bucks at all age classes prior to the rut (if possible) and you will ensure those individual bucks do breed and pass their genese to the next generation. Repeating this process each year will improve the antler quality of bucks on your property and ensure that the best bucks breed, regardless of age.