The Quality Deer Management’s 2015 Whitetail Report is now available online. Amid all the interesting data, this:
Looking at the age structure of the national buck harvest, yearling bucks (1.5-year-olds) are steadily declining as a percentage of the annual harvest, while the kill of bucks 3.5 years or older is steadily climbing. The national buck harvest may soon include a higher percentage of mature bucks than yearlings.
That is a good trend that has been a long time coming. The days of seeing a young spike and thinking, If I don’t shoot him the next guy will… might finally be coming to an end. It shows that more whitetail hunters than ever are choosing to let small, immature bucks walk in hopes of seeing and shooting a mature buck with a bigger rack the next fall or the next.
Again, in the big scheme of things, letting small bucks walk is good…but we often take things too far.
If you’ve been having a tough hunting year, or a tough time in your life, and a spike or 2.5-year-old walks by and you want to kill it, do it (but just one, you can shoot a doe later if you need more freezer meat). And there’s nothing in the world wrong with letting a kid, or a new hunter who has never killed a deer, shoot a yearling buck. To the contrary, a child or newbie should shoot the first legal deer he or she can so they’ll get hooked on hunting. As they shoot more animals, they can start passing up bucks until they mature.
NOTE: The top 5 states with the highest harvest of bucks 3.5 or older: Louisiana (68%), Arkansas (67), Oklahoma (62), Texas (58) and Kansas (46).
I suspect the rising age of the bucks taken has a lot to do with the rising average age of hunters. The majority of the hunting population is getting older and there aren’t as many young hunters joining in. Good point that hunters are letting bucks walk because they have taken more deer before and prefer to wait for something special. Another reason is the one buck rule in some states that takes some of the pressure off of the young bucks. And last, and probably the most disturbing thing is the drop in hunter numbers. Less hunters…..more bucks survive. Still, on the bright side….sure do enjoy seeing better bucks during the season, even if I don’t harvest a monster. The sight of a monster bonie in his element can absolutely make my year. Good information Mike.
What were the % for the Midwest where corn/soybeans are the livelihood of most landowners? The general opinion (and one can’t really argue) is that deer eat crops – which pay the bills.