What Is Happening to Our Older Whitetail Bucks?

Having your own land, making improvements, and finding bucks on it you'd like to hunt all can be greatly rewarding.

Having your own land, making improvements, and finding bucks on it you’d like to hunt all can be greatly rewarding.

Hunters who hunt chronically overpopulated and damaged land wonder why they do not see the older-age-class bucks they think they should, based on how many young bucks they pass during the season. The reason is that after any rut stress, there is still December, January and February that these deer must get through.

Deer don’t hibernate and they can’t fly; if there is no food available in the quantity and quality they need to maintain themselves through the winter stress period, they have two choices: move or die. If adjoining properties have better habitat, say goodbye to your deer; they will move. And with reduced nutrition provided by low-quality starvation foods, in reduced amounts, this will allow only for minimal antler growth the follow- ing year; what you might be passing as a 2 1⁄2-year-old animal might be in reality 3 1⁄2 or older, and the percentage of spikes in the yearling class might be nearly 100 percent.

I have been part of QDM programs that have been hugely successful, but only when there was 1) a reduction in the overall population of deer to begin with, and attempt to adjust the sex ratio every year and 2) when habitat work was the most important part of the equation. If there is no food, there will be no deer to manage.

Oh, and by the way, for my friends in Pennsylvania: Gary Alt was not wrong. He was 25 years too late.

— Walt Hampton


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