Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Estimating buck age during the rut and beyond

A mature buck is more likely to break cover in daylight, 
during the rut

When judging the age of a buck should one judge the antlers or the body type? Deer hunters looking to add their name to the big buck harvest roster will be paying attention to both, plus the buck’s behavior. In general, a whitetail buck will look in prime physical condition at the start of the rut, but after a few peaks and valleys of non-stop activity they will begin to change appearance. The physical exertion bucks go through can cause them to slim down and drop plenty of pounds from their frame. A buck’s neck tends to swell during the rut, and serves them well during the all out antler clashes for dominance. Bucks that are 1.5 to 2.5-years of age will not have much neck swelling at all, hence the nickname ‘pencil neck.’ Bucks older than this age class can have very rounded necks that will draw attention away from the rack of antlers. A small rack and a thick neck during the rut can send conflicting signals to a hunter, and restraint must be practiced at such times in pursuit of a wall hanger buck. Besides buck body characteristics, hunters should consider buck behavior. Years ago during a hunt at Chessie Creek Plantation in Mashawville, I was watching a doe being chased by a young buck. Either deer would have been an easy harvest, but I waited on something better. Suddenly an 8-pount buck jumped out of the swamp and began a very ‘bucky’ type of walk, running off the other buck. Before the rest of the drama could play out, my .270-rifle made an accurate shot. These are precious rare moments when a hunter interacts with a mature whitetail buck, and they usually result in a tale of stupendous success or perhaps a tale of great woe. 

To view the entire feature article click Colletonian.

To view past blog entries about big bucks click here.

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