Editors Blog

What is a Management Buck?

A lot of hunters use the term “management buck” as an excuse to shoot a deer from their property. Some do it simply because they want to have fun and tag a deer, while others do it thinking that they will help sculpt the genetics in the wild for the whitetails in their area.


Who’s right? In those two scenarios, hunter #1 is right in the fact that he is not shy about wanting to have fun while hunting. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! What about hunter #2?

Although the desire to want bigger bucks to hunt on a property isn’t a bad thing, it’s misguided if you are shooting bucks as “management deer” with the sole intention of believing you are actually going to modify wild genetics. That’s a topic for another day, but in short, it is simply not possible. The biggest reason why we can’t do a lick about genetics in the wild is simply that a whitetail gets as much as 60 percent of its DNA from Mom. And even then, social stress, nutrition and a litany of other factors make it virtually impossible to manage antlers by bullets or arrows (or both).

About Management Bucks

So … what is a management buck? For the sake of this exercise, a management buck is a mature (3-year-old or older) deer that isn’t considered a “trophy” by the landowner’s standards. By the time a buck hits this age, he is starting to settle in his ways. In other words, he has found his spot on the landscape where he will spend an inordinate amount of his time throughout the year. We call this “core area” for most properties.

When a buck finds this sweet spot on his overall home range, he will occupy it until he is either booted away by a larger, more dominant buck, or he’s killed (most oftentimes by a hunter).

Trail cameras provide critical information on which bucks you might want to consider adding to your “management” list — if you are so inclined to take your private-land management to that level.

For most areas in North America, we are talking about properties that are measured in hundreds (if not thousands) of acres when we are talking about the geeky level of deer management when you can actually determine if a buck is “living on your ground.”

Hunting Land is Key to Managing Bucks

I don’t own land, but I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to hunt several properties over the years that meet this description. One of them is a sprawling Illinois property that’s managed by my friend (and DDH contributor) Steve Bartylla. Over the past several years, I’ve had the good fortune of hunting management bucks on this property. To me, they are all trophies, because, well, any legal deer is a trophy in my eyes. 

What is it about these deer that makes them management bucks? Here are 4 factors that can put a buck into “management” status:

  1. They are considered mature (beyond 3-1/2 years old).
  2. They have not exhibited the potential to have racks much larger than what they currently have (usually 130 inches or less), in an area that can easily produce near-Boone-and-Crockett-class antlers on bucks of similar ages.
  3. They exhibit “bully” behavior during the rut. This simply means these bucks are not wimps, and they routinely suppress the potential of younger bucks with more desirable antler traits.
  4. They live in areas of limited buck-rearing cover.

Having a land manager who knows the deer on his property inside and out is the key to identifying potential management bucks. As was the case on my Illinois hunts, I was supplied with trail-camera images of potential management bucks that I might see over the course of a hunt. This was very helpful, but even more helpful was knowing the precise locations where I may or may not see individual bucks. 


Some folks might view such management as almost anticlimactic when you’re hunting. I don’t. Because, again, if it’s an up-close encounter that makes my heart race; it’s game on!

The term “management buck” is really deceptive depending upon which region of the country you’re managing whitetails on large private properties. Here’s a look at six “management” bucks I bagged in Illinois over the years.


Here are some more examples of mature whitetails that could very easily be considered management bucks for a hunter/landowner who is managing a large piece of ground in the Upper Midwest. All of these deer are mature, and all of them have exhibited near max potential for antler growth.






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Don’t Miss Out on a Chance at the “Iron Man Hunt”

My friends at Pursuit Channel are excited to announce their next big giveaway: a once in a lifetime hunt with  Real Outfitters in TX . The lucky winner of this hunt, man or woman, will have an action packed 3-days and nights of hunting like you have never
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This will be classified as a challenging Iron Man Hunt because you’ll be hunting non-stop, day and night (yes, you will get some sleep). You’ll be hunting big whitetail bucks and a doe during the day, and the invasive Axis Deer buck and doe at night or day if needed. You’ll also have opportunities for Feral Hogs, Predators or Varmits, days or nights.

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This hunt will be taken January 2 – 6th and food, lodging and guides are included.
This hunt will be filmed by USOC Adventures TV Show and air between January – June of 2019 on the Pursuit Channel. Airfare will be provided by the Pursuit Channel.