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Is Trophy Deer Management Ruining Deer Hunting?

Bowhunting Management Buck

Sometimes I’m just not sure. Has the rise in attention to deer management among hunters done more harm than good?

It seems like guys can’t kill a small, or average, buck without feeling the imposing disapproval of our modern hunting culture. When he does, he’ll cling to excuses about “management bucks” as a kind of balm to soothe the embarrassment.

You probably know the scene. A newer hunter is talking with some experienced ones about the buck he killed. His excitement quickly fades as he sheepishly hears the deer describes as, “descent little buck” or, “just a basket rack” or worse of all, a “cull buck.” If I hear one more young hunter talk about how their deer is, “not bad for a ____” whoever he’s hunting with is getting a punch in the throat.  ( <– sarcasm )

Call it “quality management” if you like, but what most guys mean is “trophy management”.  Deer management has a lot more to do with buck-to-doe ratios and fawn recruitment than it does the scoreable points or age structure of older bucks. It appears the DNR’s in most states are doing a great job issuing tags, bag limits, specific area permits, antler restrictions, etc. The deer heard in North America is healthier than it has been in decades. So why all the pressure on the average hunter to manage beyond that point? My guess – guys want trophies.

Before you start writing that email, or your deer-biologist quoting comment, let me be clear: I love QDMA type organizations, and support several of them. I whole-heartedly believe it’s our responsibility as hunters to manage the resource of wild game in our country. It’s not, however, every hunter’s responsibility to manage for your definition of a trophy.

Of course we need to manage our deer. Absolutely. That said, I think there is also a side effect from the rise in deer management speak that we must address. Managing the health of the heard is much different than defining another man’s trophy for him. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? And, one man’s cull buck is another man’s wall-hanger.

It’s okay. You have permission. If it’s a legal deer, and you like it, you can to shoot it. You’re allowed to be proud of it! That, is a trophy buck.

An Honest Kill is a Trophy, Period.

If you watch enough hunting shows, and read enough of our magazines, you’re bound to end up drawing boundaries around a “trophy” animal. It may be defined by a number, a scoring club, a record book, or your buddies biggest buck to date.

Great! I hope you get your trophy; several of them. Just don’t impose your number, standard, or minimum on other hunters. If it’s a legal animal, killed by a hunter who put in the hard work, it’s a trophy. Period.

I’m afraid we don’t realize the disrespect we pay to fellow hunters and the animals we love so much. The hunter who killed that small buck probably put his heart and soul into that hunt. The deer suffered violence, pain and death. How dare we not consider every kill a trophy?

I know a young man who used to hunt a lot; he was passionate about it. He got a little older, and started taking hunting trips all over the place. Fast-forward a few years and now he’d tell you he doesn’t even “bother with these little deer in Georgia.”

It breaks my heart. Sure, it’s his right. He can do what he wants. Yet, I can’t help but to cringe when I see someone, lose their love of the hunt for the love of a trophy. There is no glorying, no riding around showing off “these little deer” for some guys. Are we missing the point?

Partly, I blame them for missing the point altogether. Mostly, I blame the rest of us for allowing it.

Some Hunters Just Need to Kill Deer.

How else do we learn?

Folks taking up hunting today are smothered in our media. They are scrapping up info trying to learn and teaching themselves a lot of this stuff. Unfortunately, most resources they turn to for help are not appropriate. It comes from guys who are managing (farming) large tracts of land to increase the buck scores. Again, that’s fine and awesome. Seriously. But that is not what needs to be in the mind of a guy trying to hunt his first deer, or his first dozen for that matter.

What about a hunter who’s not trying to get footage for a TV show or hunting on his own farm? What about the guy who’s going to be lucky to see 2-3 deer this year? Or maybe the next 3 years for that matter? Is he supposed to let those 3 year olds walk? What about the 2 year olds? Let’s say we’ll all give the hunter a pass for his first buck, what then? Can he kill a small 2 year old buck for his 10th deer and expect to escape the disapproving brow of our hunting community’s pop-culture?

The Side Effects: Bad for Morale?

Did you see that picture up at the top of this page? Go ahead, scroll back up there and take a good look, I’ll wait…

Ok, did you see it? That was the first buck I killed with a bow. It’s a trophy buck. The picture is grainy because I snapped it late in the evening with my phone after dragging it out of the woods into a clearing where my truck was parked. It was already getting dark and I needed to get it skinned out and on ice before the Georgia heat damaged anything. That deer’s death would sustain my family’s life. I wanted to treat it with respect and use as much of it as possible. I remember that hunt more than other bucks I’ve killed before, and since. The pic isn’t great, because I was in a hurry, but it is a trophy.

I’m not sure if it’s  political/commercial implications, or if everyone is truly antler crazy. A hyper-management of deer has permeated into popular hunting culture and it’s effecting us. It’s rare to watch a show where hunters are after meat for the table. When you finally do see one, it’s usually filler between big-antler shots and lectures on culling the heard. When have you seen footage of a grown man smiling ear to ear holding a basket 8 like mine?

(At this point, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t point out that there is some great hunting TV like Steven Rinella’s MEAT EATER, or Randy Newburg’s FRESH TRACKS. There are guys out there doing great things, capturing the heart of the hunt and the reality of the average hunter. Hat’s off to them for making it real and helping learners to stay grounded.)   

In case you missed it earlier, let me remind you again – I’m a supporter of quality deer management. I think we need to manage our herd. All I want to address are what seem like unfortunate side effects. Let me tell you a quick story…

My Dad plays the guitar.

Not the kind of “plays the guitar” that makes you think of school recitals. Think more like:  he lived in Nashville and made a living playing guitar. He’s good.

I also learned to play the guitar growing up. Ironically, it was very hard for me to learn from him. You see, my dad was so good, it seemed impossible. I would imagine my fumbling fingers burning up the fret board, like his, and lose my heart for ever succeeding. It wasn’t until I was older and basically taught myself the fundamentals that I was able learn from him.

The point?

I’m afraid we’ve created a hunting culture that is too good. The barrier of entry is too high! We’re flooded with images of monstrous bucks, and we’re nit-picking our tactics to death. When a newcomer looks at joining our ranks, they’re at risk of feeling like I did trying to learn to play the guitar from my dad. Hopefully, they have enough resilience to wade through the muck alone, or find a level-headed mentor. But what if they don’t? What if we only have those first few opportunities to welcome them in?

Brothers, let’s lower the barrier of entry.

Here are a few things I’m committed to sharing with every hunter I have the pleasure of knowing. These ideas are not in contrast to quality deer management principles, but as a complement to them.

1. Take the pressure off.  The hunting community is known for being an open family. We welcome newcomers and look out for one another. Well as we should. So why do we put so much pressure to perform on ourselves? Any deer is a success.

2. Celebrate every kill. Hunters need to kill deer. That’s the only way we learn, grow, and become the kind of stewards who manage well. When an animal has given its life, it will be celebrated. Any 6 point buck is going to get just as much appreciation as the 160” 5 year old on camera at hunting camp.

3. Support the guys who keep it real. It’s worthy of our rally. When we find shows, sources and hunters who have their heads on straight, we have to show our support. The community at large will notice what’s working and what’s drawing a crowd.

So what do you think? Has Deer Management gone too far? Is this idea totally off base and narrow minded? What am I not considering above? Why don’t guys celebrate the ‘basket rack’ like they do a P&Y? Speak your mind below, we want to hear!

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  • Matthew Forte

    Thanks for writing this, Aaron. I hunt deer, not bucks, and I suspect most hunters are after deer. If I’m on someone’s private property, I’ll shoot whatever the landowner tells me to shoot. If I’m on public property, I’ll shoot the first deer I have a shot at. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with guys who hunt for bucks–my father’s dandy buck from this season is in the freezer.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks for the comment Matt! I love your approach to hunting. Trophies are all in the eyes of the beholder. We get to choose what we kill and what we don’t.. But if you’re going to kill it, respect it!

  • http://www.chasingthehunt.com/ ChasingtheHunt

    Aaron, I am glad that you wrote this article. It is great advice for new and veterans in the hunting community. It really is about respecting the game and not the points. I agree with you that there is nothing wrong with shooting a trophy, but don’t put down the kid that only got a spike. Thanks for your insight!

    • Aaron Farley

      Glad you stopped by guys! Respect certainly is the key. Thanks!

  • Matt Cooper

    Hey Aaron, I love where your heart is on this and agree completely. I am fortunate to be able to hunt on our family ranch and we make a business out of doing so. We’ve had a management/breeding program for 12 years in south texas and have to remind myself all the time of this especially when I have buddies show me game cam footage. They ask me do I shoot him or not. I tell them don’t fall into the “big brother syndrome”, which is don’t try to keep up with what your big brother has, you hunt what “you” want to hunt. I’ve had to explain to them that West TX deer are completely different than South TX deer and with their management your looking at age first and antlers second, especially if its for the love of the hunt and not business…

    • Aaron Farley

      Hey Matt, thanks so much for bringing your perspective to this discussion. I’m so glad that we have guys like you managing property to it’s fullest potential, and making a business out of doing something you love. You’re totally right, “hunt what ‘you’ want to hunt”. That’s my heartbeat. I want to see guys proud of their hard work, no matter what outcome. Thanks!

  • Al Quackenbush

    Awesome article Aaron and I am right there with you. There are some great responses to your article, too. Too many people are all about the antlers and judge you based on them alone. Even to this day, guys in CA ask me why I would shoot a doe. It’s easy. When I learned to hunt it was to eat. Plan and simple. Why do I hunt now? Because I love the hunt and I love to eat. I’ll still take a doe if the opportunity presents itself. Do I like seeing a mount on the wall? Sure, who doesn’t, but that’s not WHY I go out and do what I do. Great insight and well thought out. This one should be shared with everyone.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks for the feedback and kind words Al. Antlers are a great bonus, but the real prize is the hunt! Here’s to a fresh, grilled doe backstrap. ;-)

  • Jerry webb

    Im all for a person learning how to hunt and i allow new hunters to take anything they see on my best ground as a guest but a permanent hunter on my properties must be a big buck hunter once you become a seasoned hunter hunting is easier if all my property had were basket bucks i would no longer have the desire to hunt and as far as meat hunting the biggest bucks most always have most meat i would never down grade a persons deer but i also would not let to many of my young deer be sacrificed to the point where it effected my hunting

    • Aaron Farley

      Jerry, thanks for the great comments! You are definitely correct about the maturation of a hunter and the deer he chooses to kill. We need more guys who encourage young and new hunters to experience all our hunting lifestyle has to offer. It sounds like you’re doing a great job managing your land for the deer you want, and encouraging others to take what they want. I love it! Thanks again for the feedback.

  • Mike Dwyer

    I wonder if some part of the problem is that too many deer hunters are not versatile hunters, meaning they only hunt deer. On top of that, most people don’t need more than 2-3 deer to take care of their families for a year. So…bow season starts in August and goes for nearly 5 months. In there you also have muzzle loader, modern gun and crossbow in most states. That is a LOT of time to kill a few deer. So it makes sense that the deer hunter would hang in there and wait for that monster buck to justify all that time in the stand. When I am duck hunting I am not thinking about trophies. I am thinking “I get to shoot 6 of these today and then another 6 tomorrow.” There’s no need to wait for a monster. If there is any bragging it’s about numbers.

    For this reason I love being a versatile hunter. I bow hunt a few times in the early fall when I’m not shooting doves or squirrels but not too much because we have early wood duck and early goose seasons. I dust off my muzzle loader for a weekend in October. Modern gun season is a span of a few weeks between fall turkey and duck season. It’s not that I don’t take deer season seriously but man, there is so much other stuff out there that I can’t imagine spending soooo much time chasing deer. And because of that, I just want to put some meat in the freezer. The fish & wildlife guys say we need to kill does. Lots of does. So I usually try to shoot one (or two) and call it a season.

    • Aaron Farley

      Hey Mike, thanks for the great comment. I think you’re onto something with the lack of variation in most hunting efforts. More hunting that determined success by numbers and meat would probably decrease the attention to scores in other areas. Your dead on with the amount of time to take a bid deer as well. At the same time, I think many guys who are limited to weekends, and have family/work/commitments to balance are still struggling to get out much during those long seasons. At the end of the day, any deer is a trophy, and if that’s a stud buck for someone, it’s impressive. It that’s a smaller buck for someone, who has less time, access, and property, it’s impressive too. Trophies are relative aren’t they?

      Thanks for the great input Mike!

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  • Tim Wavrunek

    Pretty sure this is the BEST article I’ve ever read on the topic!!! It brings a sense of great introspection and calm to this hyper-responsive world without disparaging any of our hunting brethren. In this day and age of divide and conquer we are at each others throats on way too many topics, thereby further polarizing us against one another. Way too often we are told that we have to be all in on one side or the other otherwise we’re flip floppers or don’t have a back bone, or insert any other disparaging remark here, when the reality is that the vast majority of the time, the truth and the betterment of us all lies somewhere in the middle. I’m proud to be a hunter/woodsman/fisherman/conservationist/teacher/student of nature on a daily basis……….today I’m just a little more proud. Thank you for this article!

    • Aaron Farley

      Tim, thanks man! I agree with you, we spend too much time at odds with our brothers rather than encouraging and supporting one another. I want to see my fellow outdoorsman succeed. Whether that’s by connecting on a small buck, or taking a giant, or sitting in the woods watching a sunrise and getting some much needed peace. I really appreciate your comment Tim, don’t be a stranger!

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  • Mike S

    Simply an outstanding article and I couldn’t agree with you more on this topic. Everything in the hunting world seems to focus and revolve around ‘trophy’ bucks, whether its the cover of magazines or hunting shows. I can see how the younger hunters are geared towards feeling that in order to be successful you must take bucks that are trophies by everyone else’s standards rather than their own. I’ve been bow hunting in Michigan since I could walk and I live and breath hunting year round. Years back I too got caught up obsessing on the numbers for P&Y and Booners and that’s when hunting felt like a job. After that season I got back to my roots and vowed to never get caught up again and now I feel that sheet excitement taking a deer as I did when I was first starting. You don’t have to take a bigger and better deer every single year to feel like you are a better hunter. I took a buck last fall that rack wise was much smaller than deer I’ve taken in the past but when you see my smiling face in the picture you can see I’m certainly not disappointed! Bow hunting whitetails is hard work and when you can successfully put a good shot on a deer in their bedroom you need to take it all in and be grateful for the opportunity. Do I love big bucks? You better believe it and just like all of you I dream of that big 12pt every fall. But I won’t let other hunters, TV shows or magazines make me feel badly for arrowing a buck that by their standards is ‘too small’.

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks for the great comment Mike! I like what you’re getting at, a lot. We’ve created a hunting culture where killing monster bucks feels like winning, and winning feels like the point. I want to promote a culture where going is the point, experiencing is the reward, and there is no competition among brothers. Thanks again for the fantastic feedback!

  • Mark Kenyon

    A lot of great points here Aaron, and I agree with much that you had to say. That said, here’s my reasoning for why I (and I believe many others) personally choose to target mature deer … http://wiredtohunt.com/2014/02/14/to-climb-the-mountain-answering-the-question-of-why-i-hunt-mature-bucks/

    • Aaron Farley

      I love your response Mark! I worried that this post would be misunderstood when I published it. I am pumped that guys (you) choose to hunt mature bucks. I find myself doing that more and more these days. What burdens me is how hunting mature bucks is portrayed as what is expected for everyone but a 12 year old’s first. My hope is that our hunting culture would embrace woodsmanship, the hunt itself, and a man’s ability to best the wilderness, more than judging age classes and antler scores. At the end of the day, for deer heard health and numbers, a 2 year old buck will breed just as well as a 7 year old. We err when we blame our trophy hunting on “management”. Let’s just hunt, and everyone be glad they have brothers in the field killing deer at all, rather than lobbying to stop our freedom to do so.

      I really liked Mark’s response above guys. Make sure to click the link and read his take on the issue. He’s also recently launched a great book about his hunt for one particular deer – it’s a fantastic read. You can see it here: http://wiredtohunt.com/moments-with-six-shooter-ebook/

    • twodux

      I agree with your reasons for you targeting mature deer. But there is a big difference between you CHOOSING to target large bucks and game management policies that FORCE all hunters to target large bucks such as 4 pt or better hunting. I am OK with those kinds of hunts if they are limited in nature and not statewide for everyone. Everyone has different circumstances and the more they get to choose what kind of hunting they are comfortable with, the better. (As long as it’s good for the long term health of the herd) For example, any time it’s legal and needed to trim a herd to keep it healthy, I’m all for taking does. Doesn’t hurt my feelings in the least.

  • Jon Jackson

    GrAt arTicle!! But I Respectful Disagree. IT Boils Down.To Confidence. How Confident Are You That You Are Going To Take Deer For Meat And How Confident Are You That You WIll Kill A Trophy Buck. Most Hunters Have Confidence That They Will See Deer To Hunt For Meat..But moMost Hunters Dont Have The Confidence In Them Selves To See A Trophy Buck. And Thats Because They Dont Know How To Hunt Them. Hunters Quickly Realize That A Trophy Buck Is A DFfferent Type Of Animal And They Get Frustrated And They Shoot A Buck With Horns.. If A Big Bodied Spike Was StandIng Next To A LEthargic Trophy Buck Who Is Warn Out From The Rut… Please Show Me Hunter That Will Shoot Th SpiKe Over The Trophy? So What I Encourage Is To Make.All Hunters Knowledgable… I Just Wrote An Article On Flyfishing For Trophy Bucks On http://Www.Stagfit.com

    • Aaron Farley

      Hey Jon, thanks for the commend. I enjoyed your article on Fly Fishing for Bucks. I love where you’re coming from and think there is definitely merit in a guy’s freedom to choose what bucks he takes while hunting. The problem arises when killing a mature buck is elevated to a platform as a “better” buck or hunter. Many guys kill bigger deer because they have more time to sit in the woods. Or because they have access to better property. Not because they are superior hunters. I’d say there are men who trek through the mountains year after year, in tough terrain with limited access to big bucks who kill average deer year-after-year and are “better” hunters than some guys sitting over a 100 acre field with a 300 mag. My hope is that we respect the hunt, and the hunter, and not put so much emphasis on the trophy. I hope we can resist the urge to rank the “win” as the hunting community. The win is that we are the fraternity of hunters, and we have each other’s back. Thanks for the great input Jon.

      • Jon Jackson

        I Totally Understand!!

  • twodux

    I’d guess that part of the pressure to “score” on big bucks comes from the out of state hunts that many of us do. Who goes to Montana, or Colorado, or Texas, to shoot a spike or a doe. For one thing, out of state hunts cost money, so the thinking goes….. “I didn’t spend all this money to shoot a doe. When money becomes involved, it twists our expectations. People hunt out of state mostly with the expectation of getting a “trophy”. We want SUCCESS for our hard earned dollars. It’s the reason people pay guides and hunt on game ranches. You start to feel gypped if you don’t get some prescribed standard of an animal.

    The sportsmen’s TV shows,commercials, and hunting mags, and even
    hunting websites all reinforce
    this kind of thinking that you need to hold out for a certain standard
    of animal. But a lot of people don’t travel far to hunt. They just want
    to be out spending with their family in the woods getting some delicious
    wild meat to eat. And maybe animals of that certain standard don’t even
    exist where they hunt. A trophy is an unexpected bonus in some places. Are they supposed to feel bad because they shot a
    doe or a spike or a small forky? That is the wrong message to send to
    hunters.

    I like eating deer and elk and moose. Filling my freezer is my trophy. How any sets of antlers does one need on his wall? I once took a trip with a group of friends to a Texas ranch with lots of trophy deer and hogs and some exotics. Everyone tried t pressure me into only taking “trophy” sized animals. My friends were all trying to take trophies. I was looking for meat for my freezer. I took a decent whitetail buck. And then I surprised the owners by asking if I could take a doe. (they were fine with it as they cull does from the ranch ever year) Then we went hog hunting and everybody was after the biggest set of tusks. But when the ranch hands said that the big boars weren’t good for eating, I went looking for an eater sow. Got a nice 100 pounder. At the end, my friends were happy with their trophies, and I was happy with my full freezer.

    I have been lucky in my life to live in places with lots of game and fairly liberal seasons. I have taken more game than the average hunter, from towhead to spikes,does, big bucks, cow moose, bull moose, cow elk, and bull elk. The ONLY reason I’ve ever been selective with the game I take is to extend my season as I love being in the woods hunting. If you’re hunting in a place where only one animal is allowed, taking one the first morning puts a damper on your season. So if I have the time, and a reasonable expectation I will get something if I wait, I will be slightly more selective than usual.

    Lastly, when the perception of the non hunting public is that the only worth an animal has to hunters is as a trophy, hunting is doomed. Many non hunters understand hunting for food. But only a tiny minority approve of “trophy hunting”.

    • Aaron Farley

      Twodux, thanks for some GREAT input! I think you nailed the heart of the issue. I particularly like your point about hunting’s perception in the public eye as it concerns trophy hunting. I love your approach to hunting, and handle my own hunting seasons much like you do. At the end of the day, we are in error when we say things like “it’s harder to kill big bucks” as if the guys who don’t are less skilled and not as good of a hunter. Infighting has no place in the hunting community, especially in this political climate. I love that hunters have the freedom to hunt a monster buck should they choose to. What I love even more, is that hunting is accessible to the masses and a rewarding effort regardless of the game animals taken, or not. Thanks again for such good feedback!

      • twodux

        I have no problem with guys who want to pursue trophies whatever that is to them. I’m just in disagreement with people who think that’s the end all to hunting. That is elitist thinking. I also don’t mind if a state manages an area as a trophy area at certain times for more “trophy” production, as long as it doesn’t take away too much from producing enough regular animals for the masses.

        From what I’ve seen and read on management, you can manage for more abundance (and more success for hunters) or you can manage for more older, larger animals. Those two different goals don’t coincide very often. To get older animals you have to try to stockpile or save animals which is counter productive to managing for more hunter success. So a third version would be to manage for a mix of the two goals.

        You can’t stockpile animals in the wild though. There are too many variables that affect their numbers. Predators, highway deaths are a couple, along with the two biggies, habitat and winter. One bad winter can wipe out every thing you’ve been sacrificing hunter success to get. And if you save too many animals, you get to the point where the habitat won’t support the numbers you need to maintain enough older animals to get hunter success to an acceptable level. When habitat is stressed, birthrates suffer.

        The Scandinavians have it figured out pretty good for volume hunting. In their moose seasons, they try to mimic nature. In nature many young are born, but few survive for very long. Hopefully enough to replace the older animals that die in the course of things. So the Scandinavians, with their moose seasons, put the onus on taking a lot of young animals, a few mature animals mostly males, and are fairly liberal on older “trophy” sized bulls that are at the end of breeding productivity. They try to maintain a healthy stock of breeding age cows and enough prime mature bulls to have a successful mating season. So they get a good calf crop most every year and save enough to replace the older animals that are killed and harvest the rest. They don’t try to save all the young from any one season. (Like we do here in some places, emphasizing taking mostly prime breeders). When you put all the harvest effort on your best breeders, reproduction suffers. Their method goes along the same lines as your post suggested though. To have many animals for the masses to hunt, you have to be willing to take younger animals and not care so much about trophies.There is a lot of good info on the web about their management methods and philosophies. If you can’t find any, let me know and I’ll send you a link.

  • Chris Walker

    Aaron great article on a hot topic that is not discussed much! I’ve been fortunate to hunt and grow up in trophy buck country in Central IL and have witnessed exactly what you speak of. I began hunting with my dad when I was 5 and shot my first 8 point basket rack when I was 9. I’ve been fortunate enough to not miss a single deer season since 1994 and have harvested and had opportunities at several mature whitetails. For the first 8-10 years I hunted, I mostly shot the first deer that walked by and was always tickled to death to fill my tag. I didn’t want to go home empty handed and I was the only one out of my friends that really hunted so I wanted to go back and tell my hunting stories. Once I hit about 20, I started to slowly learn how to hunt mature whitetails. My hunting preparation now started months before the season, I turned into a scent freak, we quit going on nature walks in the woods, and I developed confidence and patience. It took a couple of years to get to that level, but then it started paying off and I was harvesting at least 1 mature whitetail a season. For me it was too easy to kill a young buck and I was seeking a greater challenge. I could kill a young buck out of our backyard or after sitting in a stand for 10 minutes. My mindset was let these guys go to grow up to get bigger. If I wanted or needed meat on the table, I’d shoot a doe. I really have no desire to shoot a small buck unless its deformed, old cull buck, or it is injured. That is just me and I completely understand others do not have all the hunting opportunities as I do.

    Our hunting property is like most now days, surrounded by a few wealthy guys who only hunt mature bucks and tend to be from out of state. My best friend who lives in Chicago never had anyone to teach him how to hunt or give him the opportunity. I took it upon myself to teach him how its done. After he completed his hunter safety course, I taught him how to hunt and allowed him to come with us for gun season. Now he’s harvested 2 deer and I was with him both times. He is a guest on my family’s property and we let him shoot whatever he wanted. This year we had a small 10 point chase a doe right to us, he shot the buck and I shot the doe. It was one of the most exciting hunts I’ve had in years and it was awesome to share a hunt with a close friend and to see how excited he was! That hunt was actually the highlight of my entire season this year as we were plagued by EHD and mature bucks didn’t really exist…Later that day one of our neighbors stopped by and congratulated him on his kill and I’m sure he could tell how happy Mike was. I knew this guy was being fake as can be and knew he was most likely pissed we shot a young buck. That same neighbor a few weeks later gave me shit for shooting little bucks, for allowing a friend of mine who hunts maybe 5-6 days a year if he’s lucky to shoot a deer! Some people just have lost what hunting is all about and only measure success in the form of a score.

    I hope other hunters will eventually have the opportunity to pass young bucks and to wait for mature whitetails like I do, but I’m not going to put them or their deer down that they have worked hard for. Some of the veteran hunters I hunt with still shoot the first deer that walks by and they have several giants on the wall. I don’t judge them – that’s their deer and they were successful at hunting that day! We need to all save the negativity for PETA, legislatures, and others against hunting. Not our fellow hunters.
    Happy Hunting to all!

    • Aaron Farley

      Thanks CW! Sounds like you’re the kind of friend that new hunters need. We really appreciate you sharing. I couldn’t agree more – “save the negativity for PETA, legislatures, and others against hunting. Not our fellow hunters.”

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  • Lucas Kastner

    Deer hunting is a big part of my life i do everything to prepare for season year around scouting, shooting my bow, hanging stands and planting food plots. When i started hunting i shot plenty of does and small bucks with my bow but after a couple years of that it was no longer as difficult. So i started to hunt older smarter bucks not because i am a “trophy hunter” but because of the challenge and rush it gives me to shoot a 5 or 6 year old buck. Im sick of guys saying “i am a meat hunter” to me that means you do not have the drive to work hard to kill a mature buck or doe so you shoot the first fawn you see because your lazy. THATS RIGHT i said if you shoot a fawn and its not your first few years hunting you are simply lazy. Even on public land i would not shoot a fawn though you obviously cant manage a herd on public land why kill a deer for very little meat that has not had a chance to grow all because your to lazy to work hard and kill an adult deer. If i just shot every deer that walked by like the so called meat hunters i would be tagged out opening day of bow season so i would get only 1 day to enjoy the outdoors

    • Jay

      Your comment is ridiculous. If someone wants to shoot a deer that is legal because they want meat then they are entitled to that. No one is saying shoot a fawn, but regardless, people like you are ruining hunting. If you only hunt older smarter bucks, you’re a trophy hunter. sorry bro. If you shoot a legal deer and keep about 30-50 lbs of meat, then you’re a meat hunter. Stop judging people because they don’t follow what the plan like you want. You realize not culling smaller bucks is not healthy for the gene pool right? Those bucks are breeding now because you’re a trophy hunter.