If you are not sure about the inventory of bucks using your hunting property, you can erect a few cameras near bait and begin logging each buck with his own name and folder on your computer. Trail-camera surveys are great tools for estimating the number and age classes of bucks on your property. You can then select the ages of bucks to harvest and calculate objectives from that point on. This helps you establish realistic expectations for the property you hunt and can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby. If your goal is to shoot 4-year-old and older bucks, use your trail-camera surveys to estimate the number of bucks that meet this criteria. If you are serious about achieving your goals, you must be firm in your management strategies. Other than in the case of a child or first-time hunter, you should establish a stringent policy of only harvesting bucks meeting the age criteria set forth.
Coupled with bucks only being harvested based on their estimated age, bucks should not be harvested according to the size or shape of their antlers. You can tell little about the true age of bucks just by looking at their antlers and certainly nothing about their “genetics”. In theory, taking a small or odd-racked buck should help your herd “genetics”, but many studies have shown “culling” does nothing to improve the overall “genetics” of a wild deer herd. All you are doing by shooting “scrub” bucks is shrinking your overall pool of bucks that may one day reach maturity. As Mike Porter with The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation said in an article on culling, “culling bucks probably is a waste of bucks and a wasted effort”.
Some hunters do not have an estimate of bucks by age class using their property. For these situations, it’s suggested to use an approximate figure based on property size and habitat quality. Look at what deer need; food, water, cover etc. and ask yourself if you have enough land to support the number of bucks you wish to harvest of the age class chosen. For a rough estimate and example (this varies across regions, landowners, and in different habitat types) some properties may produce two or three 3-year-old bucks for every 600 to 800 acres of high-quality habitat. Obviously regulations, hunting pressure, drought, disease, and herd dynamics can sway this number higher or lower, but that is a starting point.