by Charles Alsheimer, D&DH Contributing Editor
For the majority of North American deer range the 3-1/2-year-old bucks are the ones
a hunter dreams of hunting. A 3-1/2-year-old buck is kind of like an 18 year old human
male. He thinks he knows his way around females and is willing to do whatever it takes
to show them he’s the man. Both are maxed out on testosterone.
Having raised many 3-1/2-year-old bucks over the years I can offer that most feel
they are bulletproof, can put a whopping on any buck walking, and have an incredible
desire to be top gun in the herd. Simply put, they are driven to be the alpha buck
and prepared to do whatever it takes to make it happen. In parts of the country where
great soils are found 3-1/2-year-old bucks can easily sport antlers in the 125-150
Boone and Crockett range.
By the time late October rolls around in the North a 3-1/2-year-old begins exhibiting
all the classic behaviors you would expect from a mature buck. He goes out of his
way to bully younger, and sometimes even older bucks he encounters. The most common
way he does this is by exhibiting threat walking (ears pulled back, hair on end, eyes
rolled sideways with front legs stiff as he walks) when he encounters subordinate
bucks. It’s only when he tries the same strategy on bucks his age or older that he
gets into a fight. Ugly fights can occur at any point from velvet peel to antler cast.
However, they often take place when two like-size bucks square off over the same estrous
A 3-1/2-year-old buck also does a tremendous amount of rubbing and scraping, especially
if other bucks of his age class share the same territory. And it is not uncommon for
several bucks to work the same scrape throughout the autumn months. It is a way for
them to show dominance and leave their own scent behind for all to notice. Though
this age class will rub small trees, they often take out their rubbing frustration
on trees with a 4″ or greater diameter.
In short, 3-1/2-year-old bucks feel the need to roam in search of their own area where
they can be the alpha. This puts them in greater harm of walking past a hunter who
will be perfectly satisfied to harvest them.
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