Three Tips for Better Bucks and a Healthier Deer Herd | Great Days Outdoors

Developing a Year Round Goal Oriented Plan for the Best Results


Most hunters and outdoorsman would love to see bigger bodied, healthier deer and more and bigger bucks on the properties they hunt and manage.

It’s human nature to want quantity and quality in something that we all enjoy so much. Some believe it will take a long time and be too much work so they usually never take the necessary steps to produce real results. In fact, it really doesn’t take that much effort to see noticeable results and as far as time, remember it normally takes at least four years for a buck to begin to show his full potential for antler growth and body size.

With some goal-oriented planning and a little patience, these three strategies can help you produce big results over a relatively small amount of time. Relatable to almost anything else in life – you get out of it what you put into it.



Selective Harvest

How difficult is it to squeeze a trigger or release a bowstring? Selective harvest can be the most important of these three tactics for several reasons. For one, obviously, dead deer don’t grow. A buck must be allowed to reach maturity to really show his best set of antlers.

Because of how dispersal works in the deer world, you must also harvest does. A given piece of land will hold and sustain “X” amount of deer. Because of the territorial tendencies of whitetails, if you aren’t removing some does a large matriarchal society that just keeps getting bigger and bigger will develop.

“To supplement your food plots, your herd will also need browse, mast and other native food supplies.”

Then, when a buck disperses from his birth range and begins searching for where he will take root and spend the rest of his life, he may not be able to stay on your property because all of those spaces are filled by does. To see more bucks, balancing the buck-to-doe ratio is very important.

Because of the stress that an imbalanced buck-to-doe ratio causes, by balancing the ratio you will also see older age-class bucks. Because of having to breed more does than each buck should along with other social stress factors, you should see a noticeable increase in antler size if you balance the sex ratio. By removing does, you also cut down on the amount of mouths feeding on the remaining food. Harvesting the correct amount of does can be a win-win-win.


Doe harvest can be and important management tool on properties where the buck to doe ratio is skewed or where deer density has surpassed the carrying capacity of the land. Photo by submitted by Austin Delano


Plant Protein-Rich Food Plots

Most biologists agree, for bucks to show you their true potential they must have a consistent, year-round diet of 16 percent protein or higher. Most native habitat in the South may only offer half of that on average. Depending on soil health, location, rainfall and other factors, most native habitat will fall in the 8- to 10-percent protein range. That’s right at 40 percent less than what they need to reach their genetic potential.

Most deer survive just fine on low quality habitat, but we want them to thrive. Using a good diversity of cool season annuals, warm season annuals and perennials in your food plots, you can significantly raise the nutritional plane of your property. This is where the acreage of available tillable ground in comparison to the size of property can come into play. You can begin to see differences at only two percent of total acreage being planted in high quality plots. To see a major change in body weights and antler quality, 10 percent of total acreage being planted is the recommended goal.


Improve Native Habitat

To supplement your food plots, your herd will also need browse, mast and other native food supplies. Through prescribed burning, chainsaw work, mowing, fertilizing and other fairly simple management techniques, you can coax literally tons and tons of extra food out of your native plants.

In addition to providing the extra food and diversity, using fire, woods-work, mowing and other techniques used to create more native foods, will also help to create better bedding and cover that is also beneficial to all the small critters and birds. Providing good escape and bedding cover with habitat diversity can make a drastic change.

These are relatively simple goals and nothing you likely haven’t heard before. Putting them all together and being relentless in your quest to create a deer mecca can be more enjoyable than the hunt when you see your work start to produce measurable results. Even if you only practice sound “trigger finger management,” you can churn out clear, easily seen results.

If you do put some time, effort and elbow grease into it and execute all three responsibilities, you can be on your way to years of exciting, action-packed big buck hunting.

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