“Look at the racks last and the body first.”
We’re always saying this at the farm, and if you say it in any other context, you’re likely to be slapped by a woman. But when it comes to aging deer on the hoof, it’s our maxim. Age is a major factor in our Quality Deer Management (QDM) practices. In order to achieve our goals, we need to guess a buck’s age and factor it into the criteria of whether it goes on the “hit list” or “do-not-hit list” we make each season.
Sometimes, all you need to do is lay eyes on a buck to determine he is 5 or 6 years old. His body is built like a tank, there’s a sag in his brisket and, well … let’s just say age hasn’t done his figure any favors. You see him and there’s no doubt you’re going to pull back your bow if he steps in front of you. Other times though—especially around age 3 and 4—the lines of whether a buck is mature can get blurry, especially if you’re just looking at his antlers.
This time of year, with the rut in full swing, we’re all focused on antlers. Anything is liable to walk by. It could be that monster on your hit list or a 2-year-old carrying a rack too big for his age. At the farm, we’re focused on killing mature deer. If that’s your goal, too, I urge you to get good at aging bucks on hoof. My friends at the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) have a great article to help you not accidently shoot a good buck that might be a tremendous buck in a few years; click here to check it out.
It’s tough to let a buck with a rack that would look good above your fireplace—or on the hood of your truck like some of us rednecks prefer—walk. It takes willpower. Most of us in the Foxworthy family don’t have much of that, and we really do “call in the next 10 minutes” during infomercials. But letting that 3-year-old carrying a decent rack live until he’s 4 or 5 is definitely worth it. The feeling I had when I shot a Georgia giant earlier this year is one I want to have again and again and again. The only way I know how to do that is to let the young bucks that show potential at Foxworthy Farm live another day.
If you have any questions about how we select deer to harvest at the Farm, comment below and I’ll do my best to answer.