The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has taken specific steps to improve the age structure of deer in the state with a public awareness campaign using the title motto. “As hunters we make a wildlife management decision every time we release an arrow or pull a trigger,” reads the state’s literature; it’s a statement that each of us can take personally. Whether you embrace a formal Quality Deer Management program or simply choose to let younger age-class deer grow another year, numerous states are having success with this strategy. As the graph below indicates, passing the harvest of 1.5-year-old bucks results in higher age-class deer and larger racks. Here are the states employing this strategy and the results:
Erik Bartholomew, Wildlife Department’s big-game biologist, says the fact that fewer younger bucks are being harvested indicates that Oklahomans are enjoying good hunting opportunities. “Hunters are better educated, and they are being more selective about what they harvest.”
Hunter Drew Turner notes that he has passed on numerous small bucks. “The most exciting thing I’ve ever done while hunting was let that first six-point walk on by with the intention of letting him grow.” Matt Ross has made the choice to wait numerous times. “I probably passed up more than a dozen bucks, all within bow range,” he writes. “Several were nice eight-points, just not quite old enough. I ended up shooting an old gnarly buck with a broken nose.” Despite deciding to pass up several smaller bucks, Emery Lamunyon of Luther comments, “All in all, I had a great year!” He ended up with two nice does in the freezer.