Many times when we are debating topics people take sides, and become deeply entrenched in their view with no room for nuance. In the hunting community, we have two sides of deer management. One group of hunters wants to let bucks grow to older age before shooting the deer. Others want to just shoot whatever deer that comes by first. Both Sides are making the critical mistake of not understanding the positive benefits of the other point of view.
I consider myself to be more in the camp of let’em go let’em grow, so I will start there. Science has shown us the benefits behind a balanced buck to do ratio and a balanced age structure of bucks. A balanced heard causes the breeding to be shorter and more defined to the beginning of November. This leads to the majority of does to be breed at the same time. Since does have a 200 day gestation period, most of the fawns will be born at the same time in the spring. This has two main benefits. The younger the fawns are the more vulnerable they are to predators. If fawns are dropping all summer because of an unbalanced deer herd, predators will kill more fawns. Secondly, doe fawns can not be breed until they hit 55 lbs. If the fawn is dropped later in the summer she will likely not get big enough to produce fawns her first year. If they are born to late in the year they may not be big enough to make it through the winter. all three of these things will lead to a smaller deer herd and less opportunity for everyone. There are other benefits to letting bucks grow if you want to take the time to educate yourself look into articles from QDMA.
There are also benefits to, ” If it’s brown it’s down”. Mainly more people will actually harvest a deer and continue to hunt. Hunting numbers have been declining slowly since the 80s. Hunting is funded by hunters buying licences and tags. If our numbers continue to drop we will not be able to fund the Greatest conservation system ever put in place. It took me many years of hunting to develop the skills to hunt 4.5 year old bucks. Young hunters, new hunters, and hunters that do not have much time to hunt all pay into the system that supports conservation. Having these hunters see success will cause them to continue buying licenses and tags. These hunters make up a large portion of those purchasing license, and we desperately need to keep them around.
Like most controversial topics, there is a balanced middle ground to accomplishing both objectives. I believe the average hunter needs to be educated on the benefits of allowing young bucks to grow. They will need to put in the work towards improving their hunting skills to hunt older deer each year. While the, “Let’em go let’em grow” hunters need to be educated on the benefits of have more hunters. They will need to help young and new hunters learn how to hunt more mature deer.
What we have done where I hunt is a balance of both. All button bucks and 1.5 year old bucks are off limits. At that point it is up to each hunter to decided if they want to shoot a 2.5 year old or wait for one of the giant bucks that are in our area. There are a few exceptions. Kids that have never killed a deer can shoot any deer they choose, and we will be extremely happy if they shoot a button buck. We want the kids to see success early and often to keep them hooked. Another exception is for hunters that have never killed a buck. They can shoot any buck they want even if its a spike, and we will be extremely happy for them. This has lead to a better buck to doe ratio on our property and fawns very few fawns that are born late in the summer.
Lets take a balanced approach to managing the deer that we love so much. We all want to have a healthy deer herd and our hunting heritage passed down to the future generations.