Does size really matter? That is a broad question. When referring to the hunting world and the size of a Whitetail's rack, some say yes, while others say no. Today let's talk about bow hunting, trophies and deer management. Strictly opinions being tossed around here, but something to think about.
Bow hunting. It is an art. It is far from modern gun hunting. Bow hunting requires many different skill sets that must be acquired strictly through experience. You're not going to read my column or a published "How To" book on bow hunting and become the next Fred Bear. Bow hunting is a pure challenge. Let's not take anything away from modern gun hunting, for that is where 99.9% of us started out and where many of you probably still practice. Let's discuss the difference.
Bow hunting requires more precise scouting. When I say more precise, I mean not only knowing deer use a certain ridge that is 300 yards long, but knowing exactly where on that ridge your deer are traveling, feeding or bedding. Bow hunting requires short, lethal shots. While gun hunting you can relax a bit more. You can ease back 100 yards with a rifle and have a lesser chance of being detected. Bow hunting requires discipline, up close and personal, encounters with Whitetails. This, to me, plays a role when deciding which buck to shoot while gun/bow hunting.
If I hunt during modern gun season, I tend to be a bit pickier when choosing which buck to harvest. I can shoot farther and I have a better chance statistically at harvesting an animal. That doesn't mean it is the same for everyone, this is strictly my opinion. On the other hand, when bow hunting, I am less strict on which buck to harvest. Bow hunting is hard. I'm here to admit it. My archery harvests mean more to me, for it was a more precise kill. This is not the same for every hunter. Some hunters are after antler size, while others care about packing the freezer. Deer management is a touchy subject, so, let's touch on it!
What age is a whitetail buck mature? Some say three, some four and some even five to six years of age. If you have a property in which you can control which deer are taken and which are not, deer management is a great thing. Most hunters do not have that luxury. They hunt public land, or small plots of land that have many other hunters surrounding them. We work jobs that keep us from hunting like we wish we could, so at times even the trophy hunters just get the trigger itch and pack the freezer.
Antler size should only matter to one person, being the hunter who harvests the animal. Sure, in a perfect world, we'd all be able to harvest 130-150 inch Whitetails every year and deer management would be a breeze. I'm not saying to run around and sling an arrow at everything that walks. I am, however, saying that know before you climb up in your stand what your limits are. Some of my favorite kills are spikes and does when it comes to archery. I do believe, though, we as hunters should challenge ourselves. Yes, packing the freezer and providing for your family is important. The best tasting venison comes from that of a young deer, but as a hunter, as we grow and expand our skills, we should push ourselves to harvest larger and more mature animals.
Like I stated, younger deer taste better. A two year old, well fed buck, he will taste better than any 5 year old mature, monster racked deer. I know several hunters who strictly hunt for meat and several who strictly hunt for antlers. Neither are wrong. Both are putting meat in the freezer and providing for their families. It is a choice you have to make. If I'm going to tag a smaller buck, I prefer it be with a bow over a firearm. That's just me.
To me, if I feel like letting the arrow fly, I'll let the arrow fly. Today's world is filled with all kinds of young bow hunters who have a misconception on what a trophy is. These bow hunters, some haven't even slung an arrow at a whitetail and they are out there "trophy" hunting. I encourage young bow hunters to shoot does, young bucks or old bucks. Experience with a bow is key. Without it, failure is sure to show itself when you do, in fact, get your chance at a trophy buck. All great bow hunters harvested does and young bucks. Get some experience under your belt and have zero shame with it. A bow harvest is a good harvest.
All of this is strictly my opinion. Whether you practice deer management or not, enjoy the outdoors guys/gals. Harvest what makes you happy. Push yourself to become a more disciplined hunter in the process. Remember, bow hunting is an art of experience. If you're just starting, get a few under your belt before you go and just trophy hunt. It's just a suggestion, but I promise you'll be thanking me later. Until next time - happy huntin'!