Killing Mature Bucks Means Not Shooting Them Young

The secret to killing mature bucks during hunting season means implementing harvest management: Don’t shoot them. Well, at least not while they are young. If bucks are protected when they are young and allowed to age then they will become mature. Makes sense, right? Shooting mature bucks down the road means not filling your tag/s with young and middle aged bucks this year. And shooting older bucks is exactly what US hunters did during the 2014-15 deer season.

Yes, this deer harvest data is from a year ago, the season prior. It takes some time to compile the information from each state and put it into a cohesive report. It will be interesting to see how the 2015-16 whitetail season shakes out.

Deer Management Practiced: Bucks Mature

According to harvest data compiled by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) in its 2016 Whitetail Report, deer hunters in the United States tagged more mature white-tailed bucks than 1 1/2 year old (yearling) bucks for the first time in recent history. Yearling bucks comprised 33 percent of the buck harvest, continuing the steady decline since 1989 when yearling bucks made up 62 percent of the buck harvest.

Source: “Since QDMA was founded in 1988, we’ve watched the harvest pressure on yearling bucks decline steadily from the extremes seen after restoration, and this resulted in climbing rates of mature-buck harvest as more older bucks became available. However, the 2014-15 season will be remembered as the first where the two trends intersected and hunters took more mature bucks than yearlings.

Less Yearling Bucks Tagged Means More Mature Bucks Harvested

“The ongoing decline in harvest pressure on yearling bucks means that more and more hunters are enjoying an opportunity to see and kill mature bucks. They’re also enjoying other benefits of hunting deer populations with healthy numbers of older bucks, like intensified rut activity, more rubs and scrapes, and better success with rattling and grunt calls. This is good for hunter retention and participation, which is good for ensuring the future of deer hunting.”

Top States for Mature Whitetail Bucks

According to the 2016 Whitetail Report, the top state that killed the most mature bucks during the 2014-15 season was Mississippi, where 74 percent of bucks killed were 3 1/2 years old or older, followed by Arkansas and Louisiana at 67 percent, Texas at 62 percent and Oklahoma at 60 percent. The 5 states also had low harvest rates for yearling bucks.

Complete state-by-state estimates of total buck harvest, buck age structure, and other harvest data are available in the full Whitetail Report. This document is chock-full of deer data for the 26 reporting states, which includes most of the white-tailed deer’s range. I recommend checking it out for some interesting and eye-opening reading.

Will the trend of killing more mature bucks continue in your neck of the woods? That’s to be determined, but the trend is definitely our friend in this case. Harvest data suggests that whitetail hunters are increasingly passing on young bucks during the hunting season so we should all be very optimistic about the deer hunting seasons ahead!

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