I took this photo a few years ago at a hunting camp in Georgia. The camp boss uses it to show their guests which young bucks to pass (sets 1 and 2 top) and which to shoot (3 maybe, 4 for sure). 

The board is a good visual, it really does simplify “trigger finger management.”

I believe in deer management, though I will never preach to anybody that you MUST hold out for a fully mature monster. Maybe you only have a few days to hunt one season. Maybe you lost your job, are going through a divorce or had some other bad experience, so you just need to get in the woods and shoot a deer, get your hands dirty and clear your mind.

If you are hunting in a legal and ethical manner and if a buck is legal, no matter its age or rack size, and if you want to shoot it, do it. This is America, man, do what you need to do.

But the antler board clearly shows that most of us would be happiest with racks 3 and 4. The antlers are bigger and the bucks would be older (3 1/2 and 4 1/2). Anything larger and older than set 4 would be a nice bonus, shoot! 

Back to sets 1 and 2. For kids or first-time hunters, those are shooters. I’m convinced that new hunters must have success and draw blood if we expect them to stick with us for the long term, so let them kill whatever buck they want at first, along with a doe or two when and where legal.