I mentioned that communicating with your neighbors is imperative to get them on the same page with you and your management goals. However, so many people are focused on the “hunters across the fence” they fail to focus on their own self-imposed rules for their property. The number of bucks you can harvest really depends on your level of restraint and the age classes of bucks you want to hunt. If you choose to shoot yearling bucks (1 years old), you should not expect to see many bucks year after year any older than that.
According to the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), if yearlings are your primary target and the age class you and your hunters primarily harvest, then in each subsequent year, the age structure of the herd will be composed of around 75 percent plus 1-year-olds, 15 percent 2-year-olds, 7 percent 3-year-olds, 2 to 3 percent 4-year-olds, and 0 to 1 percent 5-year-old and older bucks. Now, break this down according to the age classes and total number of bucks your neighbors are harvesting as well. If they are also shooting young bucks, your age structure will be even lower combined with even less bucks available to harvest overall. Under these circumstances, you should never expect to see many bucks over 1.5 to 2.5 years of age.
If your goal is older-age bucks, and your property size allows it, you must be firm but realistic when it comes to setting and maintaining these goals. The starting point for QDM programs is protecting yearling bucks and then working your way up from there. If you choose to pass yearlings, your buck age structure should then look much better. In fact, according to the QDMA it may be composed of 45 to 50 percent 1-year-olds, 25 percent 2-year-olds, 15 percent 3-year-olds, 10 percent 4-year-olds, and 5 percent 5-year-old and older bucks. These better-managed herds are vastly different from the traditionally-managed herds, and they will provide a much different hunting experience as well. Older bucks equates to better hunting in most cases.