MOORE — The deer rifle season is perhaps the most anticipated and popular hunting season in our state. In fact, I happened to be one of the many hunters out Saturday morning (opening day) eagerly awaiting that familiar glow in the eastern sky. If you have never sat in a century-old, weathered Cottonwood overlooking a frosted landscape and watched the sun come up, I’d highly recommend it.
Many folks experienced this same scene and probably saw much deer activity. The deer breeding period or “rut” as it’s commonly called is in full swing across our state. I frequently receive calls and emails about deer herd management, especially this time of year. Whether it’s checking trail cams, emailing buck photos to estimate age or planting food plots, deer hunters are busy from October to January, with November being the busiest.
One common question I receive is how many bucks hunters can or should harvest from a given property. Even though I try not to, sometimes I give the old “it depends” answer. The number of bucks that can be taken depends on several factors; some of which may or may not be within our control. Generally speaking though, few properties can sustain the harvest of more than one buck per hunter, per year depending on property size, individual goals, and many other factors.
While there are many things to consider, the biggest factors of all are simply the goals of a specific property. What do you want? If a person is hunting 40 acres surrounded by old-school, “antlers-its-down” neighbors, a goal of producing a mature buck annually may not be feasible without a tremendous amount of communication.
Of course, to produce bucks realizing their full potential, they must grow old enough to reach that point. Recently, I discussed the importance of bucks reaching mature age classes; 5.5 and up. The only way bucks are going to reach their potential is to breach the age classes past the point of skeletal maturity (4.5 years in most cases). This entails bucks being given the green light by every hunter along the way. It also means they need to stay out of other trouble involving vehicles, predators, disease, and of course other aggressive bucks during the rut. With a home range of several hundred to several thousand acres depending on the individual, bucks put themselves in harm’s way every day; especially during the rut. This is why it is so difficult to get them to mature age classes. In fact, if you take a 6.5 or 7.5-year-old buck, especially in Oklahoma, you are very fortunate.