More 1.5-year-old bucks (yearlings) are getting a pass from deer hunters than at any time in modern history, according to data gathered by QDMA for its 2014 Whitetail Report, now available free online.
In the 2012-13 season, the most recent season with complete deer harvest data available from all states, only 37 percent of antlered bucks killed by hunters in the United States were yearlings, down from over 62 percent in 1988, the year QDMA was founded. Antlered bucks do not include “button bucks,” so this means that nearly two-thirds of antlered bucks killed by hunters in 2012-13 were 2.5 years or older.
“The trend is clear, more deer hunters are choosing the benefits that come from protecting yearling bucks and building numbers of older bucks in a deer population,” said Kip Adams, a wildlife biologist and QDMA’s Director of Education & Outreach, who compiles the annual Whitetail Report.
When most yearling bucks are protected and survive to adulthood, hunters witness more rut behaviors, get more responses with rattling and grunt calls, see more scrapes and rubs, find more shed antlers, and see and kill mature bucks more frequently.
Voluntary restraint by hunters plays a significant role in reducing harvest rates among yearling bucks.