For 95% of America’s whitetail hunters, especially those of you who hunt on public land, the answer is YES.
Trouble is, too many young and/or inexperienced hunters watch too much television. A great-looking 8- or 10-pointer steps out and some guy or gal whispers into the camera, Nice buck, but he needs another year…or he’ll be shooter in a year or two…
BTW, I hate that overused saying, He needs another year…
Anyhow, the young hunter plays off what the TV “expert” says and does, and passes up a 120- to 140-class buck that he or she should have shot.
I was glad to see my friend Lindsay Thomas of the QDMA put the right perspective on it. The QDMA sometimes gets a bum rap as promoting only the growing and managing of trophy bucks, but that is not the case. Lindsay wrote:
A middle-aged deer is a nice buck for any hunter. For many good reasons, a lot of hunters choose wisely to take bucks at 2½ or 3½ years of age. This is perfectly within the goals of QDM; anyone who says you have to wait for full maturity when practicing QDM is flat wrong. Moreover, these hunters are taking a really nice buck. At 2½ a buck is likely displaying 60% (the majority) of his lifetime antler potential. At 3½ he’s likely displaying 80%. At this point, he might have been “a good one next year” but likely not a whole lot better. A buck that scores in the 120-class at 3½ is unlikely to become a Booner, and most hunters (if they are totally honest about it) turn into wobbling jelly when they see a 120-inch buck. I know I do!
Of course which buck to shoot is entirely up to you. If you want to pass a 3-year-old 8 in hopes an older and bigger brute will walk by later, more power to you. If you are fortunate enough to hunt a well-managed, lightly hunted property with a good buck age structure and a good number of fully mature bucks in the herd, you probably should wait.
But for most of America’s 15 million deer hunters: If you see a solid 3-year-old buck shoot him and don’t think twice.