The Key to Larger Bucks

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Published on: Nov. 2, 1995

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

reach the desired doe harvests.

Some 93 percent of Missouri is in private ownership. As a result, deer hunting activity varies from property to property. This is partly because deer hunters have diverse attitudes toward deer. Some just want the opportunity to shoot a deer for the freezer; others want that trophy buck.

Whatever the goal, there are management techniques that can help hunters and landowners. Some goals may be reached simply by adjusting harvests; other times it may require a carefully controlled deer limit and cooperation from hunters on adjacent properties.

The ability to regulate deer numbers on a property depends on its size and shape and the quality of habitat. Conditions on surrounding properties, including habitat quality and hunting pressure, also are important factors to consider.

Size of land ownership has the greatest impact on whether you can produce more adult bucks on your property. Deer move over large areas, and the ability to manage deer increases proportionally with ownership size. For example, a person with 10 acres will have less control over deer on his/her property than a person with 1,000 acres.

The amount of hunting or other activity that occurs on adjacent properties is a second important factor to consider. Light or no hunting pressure on surrounding land can make it easier for someone to produce large bucks or to increase deer densities. On the other hand, people trying to reduce deer numbers on their property may find it difficult if hunter access is limited on surrounding properties.

The shape of the property may affect how often a deer moves onto adjacent land. A long linear shape, as opposed to a more compact shape, may have more individual deer use of the area but less time per individual. When surrounded by heavily hunted ground, deer associated with a linear holding would spend more time off the property and therefore would be exposed to greater hunting pressure.

Quality of deer habitat and primary sources of food will affect how much time a deer spends on a given area. Deer will shift movement patterns according to the location of food. For example, in a year with a good acorn crop, deer may select oak-hickory forests for foraging in the fall, instead of agricultural fields. Deer may favor agricultural fields other times of the year and in years of poor acorn production.

Considerable interest in managing for large bucks has developed in recent years. Two schemes are

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