Hunters want to see mature bucks during the deer hunting season. Decreasing the harvest of yearling bucks is one sure-fire way to increase the number of older bucks in any area. It seems that is exactly deer hunters across the US are doing, according to a report from the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). Since 1989, the harvest rate of yearling bucks, those that are 1 1/2 years of age with their first set of antlers, has been nearly cut in half. It’s likely a product of the increased popularity of deer management, but I suspect part is also due to antler restriction regulations that have been implemented in many states.
In the past 20 years, many hunters have subscribed to the ideas of managing deer populations. Whether it be on their own property or leased land, hunters across Texas are well versed in the importance of protecting young bucks. Many yearling bucks are not harvested, despite the fact that the state encourages the harvest of spikes throughout most Texas counties.
Yearling Buck Harvest Down
QDMA: In the 2012-13 season, the most recent season with complete deer harvest data available from all states, only 37 percent of antlered bucks killed by hunters in the United States were yearlings, down from over 62 percent in 1988, the year QDMA was founded. Antlered bucks do not include “button bucks,” so this means that nearly two-thirds of antlered bucks killed by hunters in 2012-13 were 2.5 years or older.
“The trend is clear, more deer hunters are choosing the benefits that come from protecting yearling bucks and building numbers of older bucks in a deer population,” said Kip Adams, a wildlife biologist and QDMA’s Director of Education & Outreach, who compiles the annual Whitetail Report. “The decline in yearling-buck harvest has been more rapid in some states than others, and hunters in a handful of states still take high percentages of yearling bucks, but even in most of those states the trend is in the right direction.”
When most yearling bucks are protected and survive to adulthood, hunters witness more rut behaviors, get more responses with rattling and grunt calls, see more scrapes and rubs, find more shed antlers, and see and kill mature bucks more frequently.
“Deer hunting is just more fun and exciting when you protect most yearling bucks,” said Adams. “QDMA doesn’t recommend protecting every yearling buck, in fact we fully support and encourage youth and new hunters having the opportunity to harvest them if they choose. QDMA simply recommends protecting the majority of yearling bucks. We want hunters to know the benefits of having a more natural age structure and to realize how their hunting can improve when they graduate from taking yearling bucks.”
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