You can go to any hunting group on Facebook and if you follow it long enough and someone will post the picture of a small buck and call it a “cull buck.” And usually, with the picture, there will be some comment related to removing genetics from the herd.
Unfortunately, studies have shown that shooting deer with smaller antlers have zero effect on the genetics of a free-ranging deer herd. In other words, the shooting of cull bucks to improve herd genetics is entirely useless.
The reason it does not work is that young bucks do not set up core areas in the same area they are born. Does kick button bucks out of the family group around the time of the rut. These bucks have been known to travel for miles before finding a place to call home. So when a yearling buck shows up in your hunting area, it is not the offspring of your local buck with “superior genetics.”
Now, this might upset some QDMA purists, but there is an argument to shoot that “cull” buck that has nothing to do with genetics but had everything to do with herd management. I already mentioned how button bucks disperse from the area they were born. That combined with were bucks set up a core area is the basis for this argument.
Studies have shown that deer are very loyal to a core area. So once a buck establishes a home is going to be there year after year. If you have a buck with subpar potential set up in your hunting area, you have two choices you can either let him grow and harvest a mature deer with possibly subpar antlers or take him out of the herd and see what deer takes his place.
If you are managing your property, you are investing in your deer herd. Any deer on your property is taking up space in the ecosystem. Those deer eat in the food plot you put in; they sleep in the bedding area you created and eat the minerals you put out. So you need to ask yourself, would you instead invest in a deer that at 5 ½ years old has 110-inch antlers or one with 150-inch antlers?
Think of it like poker; If you are dealt a seven two (the worst hand in poker) you have the choice to either play the hand or fold. Most poker players choose to fold and not invest any money in a terrible starting hand. They wait until they have a good hand to start betting.
The drawback with taking a “cull” buck is that it will take a few years to honestly see if the new buck holds the potential that you want. There is no guarantee that the new buck will any better. It is a gamble, that may pay off in the long run, but there is no guarantee.
Just remember culling a buck does nothing for genetics. It only replaces the buck you have on your property for another one with different genetic makeup. It could be better it could be worse.