Ask QDMA: When is a Buck Mature Enough to Kill?

Brian Herring of South Carolina sent in this Ask QDMA query: “When is a buck mature enough to shoot? And, with a lot of it’s-brown-it’s-down hunters nearby, is passing the buck actually worth it? What’s not a trophy to one person could be a giant to another, so do you make them pass on their first big buck because it’s not big enough for you? I’m torn on these questions and could use some advice.”

These are very important questions for anyone practicing Quality Deer Management, and Lindsay Thomas Jr., editor of QDMA’s Quality Whitetails magazine, answered each of them in the short video shown below.

Protect Most of The Yearling Bucks

To increase the number of bucks in the woods in older age groups, QDMA encourages hunters to protect most or all of the yearling bucks (1½ years old). After that, it’s up to each individual hunter to decide what age they’d like to target, and it’s best to start low and work your way up, gaining experience as you go. It’s also best not to force other hunters to jump to advanced levels of buck management if they’re not ready. They should also be afforded the opportunity to start with younger bucks and work their way up. QDMA even suggests that young or new hunters be allowed to take any buck, even a yearling if that’s their desire. As long as most yearlings are surviving to see another season, buck age structure will continue to improve.

Enjoy the video, share it with other hunters, and if you have additional questions of your own, send them to us through Ask QDMA!

When Is A Buck Mature Enough to Kill? Ask QDMAWhen is a buck mature enough to kill? And is it worth passing yearling bucks if your neighbors don’t? In this #AskQDMA video, Lindsay Thomas Jr. answers two related questions from Brian Herring of South Carolina.

Posted by The Quality Deer Management Association on Monday, September 19, 2016


  • Wild M Ranch

    Agreed. We started QDM in 2013 on 337 acres that had been high-pressured for years prior. We added more strategic and easy access foodplots, reduced pressure with fewer hunters, hunting and approaching stands based on wind, yet we have taken 12 bucks with one being just 4 years old. All others younger. All of our three sons took their first bucks ever with bow and/or rifle and our lone guest youth hunter has taken his first doe and fine 2 year old buck. Not to mention what I, my brother and friend have taken. We also took 10 does and two fawns. Yet our overall buck population has doubled. Does and fawns increased substantially but so did predation. We took nine coyotes last winter. We have seen a slight decline in fawns tjis season due to coyote and bobcat increases. Rabbits increased substantially also. We believe taking coyotes June-August will help. Nontheless, we have taken our best bucks ever this season and as of today, we have at least seven resident bucks which will be 4+ or older in 2017, God-willing. Four of those should be over 5 years old. It took us three-and-a-half seasons to truly distinguish between age classes. We learned this season we have been a year off, meaning what we thought were 4 year olds were 3 year olds and on down the line. It is a progression for sure and we have enjoyed the fruits of the harvests while still being able to grow these amazing, free-ranging animals. The ONE key we believe is that outside of the rut, don’t give deer a reason to expand their range. For us, cover is everywhere and virtually our whole farm has cover (mature timber, scrub, ridges and glades). Food, water, cover, reduction of predators (including hunters), and mostly God’s grace in providing good rains in summer and reduced late summer droughts have given us these options. It takes time and patience.

    • Lindsay Thomas Jr.

      Tom, thanks for sharing your story! What a great example of QDM success, and on a relatively small property size. These are incredible results for only 337 acres. I really like your suggestion: “Don’t give deer a reason to expand their range.” Great advice!