Question: “Is a 3 1/2 year old freak a cull buck? We are trying to manage the doe density and take some cull bucks to better the buck herd, but one hunter on our property took a 3 1/2 year old freak that was not on the hit list as a cull buck. The hunter is claiming that he in fact was a cull. I’m not in anyway arguing with the hunter about his decision, it’s just I thought we were trying to manage our doe population first and then the bucks second. I know in my heart that I would have taken a doe over taking this 3 1/2 year old freak that was healthy.”
Response: First, a “freak buck” could be one of many things. It could be deer worthy of culling if it’s on the low end of the spectrum for bucks in its age class or it could be a rarity that sits on the upper end of the bell curve, a buck of freakishly large proportions. The latter would be a buck that you would definitely want to get some age on, which would allow the buck to pass on his genes and achieve maximum antler growth.
A buck that’s only 3 1/2 years old is not nearly topped-out, but the antlers sitting atop his head tell a lot about his future. First, let me just say that culling is subjective and depends much on the deer herd found in an area. It also depends on the amount of acreage on which selective buck harvest can occur; larger acreages are more likely to succeed. However, there are some general guidelines that I can offer that may help in this situation with the management of your deer herd.
Any whitetail buck that is 3 1/2 years of age or older with 8 or fewer antler points should be considered for harvest. Any buck that is 2 1/2 years of age or older and lacks brow tines (G1s) should also be considered for culling. Most hunters and landowners interested in deer management would not want to promote these types of antler characteristics. These recommendations are just a place to when it comes to selective buck harvest.
The most important aspect of any management program for deer is determining the short-term objectives that must be implemented in order to achieve the long-term goals, whether it be improving the buck to doe ratio, selectively removing bucks or simply decreasing the deer population. In this case, it sounds like the objectives were either not well understood or totally disregarded.
The best way to minimize mistakes among hunters is to collect game camera photos prior to the season, sit down with those involved in the management program and clearly identify which bucks are on the “hit list” and which ones are not.