Develop a goal-oriented plan to make your dirt the best all year long for hunting healthier bucks.
I would venture to say that most hunters would love to see bigger-bodied, healthier deer plus more and bigger bucks on the properties they hunt.
It’s a fact—we hunters are wired for hunting healthier bucks, specifically whitetails.
Some believe it will take a long time and be too much work, so they never take the necessary steps to produce real results. In fact, it doesn’t take that much effort to see noticeable results. And as far as time, remember that it normally takes at least four years for a buck to begin showing his full potential for antler growth and body size.
With some goal-oriented planning and a handful of patience, the following three strategies will show big results over a relatively small amount of time. Relatable to most anything else in life—you get out of it what you put into it. The dirt on your land is no exception.
How difficult is it to squeeze a trigger or release a bow string?
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 show you his best set of antlers.
Because of how dispersal works in the whitetail’s world, you must also harvest does. A given piece of land will only 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 will develop that keeps expanding.
“So, for hunting healthier bucks, it’s important to balance the buck/doe ratio.”
Then, when a buck disperses from his birth range and begins searching for land where he will take root and spend the rest of his life, he may not be able to stay on your property if all of the spaces are filled by does. Too many does and too little forage is not ideal for growing big bucks. So, for hunting healthier bucks, it’s important to balance the buck/doe ratio.
An imbalanced buck-to-doe ratio causes stress because the buck is having to breed more does than he should. Add to that task other stress factors and your land will have an even greater imbalance. With good balancing, you will see older age class bucks. You should also see a noticeable increase in antler size if you balance the sex ratio.
By removing does, you cut down on the amount of mouths feeding on the remaining food. For a win-win situation, harvest the correct amount of does.
Plant Protein-Rich Food Plots
Most biologists agree that a buck must have a consistent, year-round diet of 16% protein or higher to show his true potential.
On average, most native habitat in the South may only contain half of that amount. Depending on soil health, location, rainfall, and other factors, most native habitat will fall in the 8% to 10% protein range. That’s about 40% less than what deer need to reach their genetic potential. Most deer survive just fine on low quality habitat, but we want them to thrive.
By using a good diversity of cool season annuals, warm season annuals, and perennials in 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 comes into play.
You will begin to see differences at only 2% of total acreage being planted in high-quality plots. However, to see a major change in body weights and antler quality, the goal to shoot for is 10% of total acreage planted so that you can begin hunting healthier bucks.
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 simple management techniques, you can coax literally 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—you will also help to create better bedding and cover. That, in turn, is also beneficial to every small critter and bird in the wild.
Providing good escape/bedding cover and habitat diversity can result in a dynamic change that will allow for hunting healthier bucks.
The Result—a Deer Mecca
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, easy-to-see results that will get you on your way to hunting healthier bucks.
If you execute all three responsibilities, it will take time, effort and elbow grease. But by doing so, you can be on your way to years of exciting, action-packed big buck hunting.