May 2006
Featured Articles

Keys to Producing More and Bigger Bucks

  A chainsaw can be a whitetail’s "best friend."
by Todd Amenrud

One of the objectives of many land stewards and whitetail managers is to try and produce more and bigger bucks on their property. Working for BioLogic® I often get questioned about whether food plots will aid in this pursuit. The answer is yes, BUT….

Food plots are going to decrease the home range size of each animal on your property and increase your property’s carrying capacity. However, if you want to notice a significant increase in the amount and size of the bucks on your property, you should combine habitat manipulation, woods work and selective harvest along with planting food plots.

Many land managers only provide food plot forage during the late summer months and into the fall. Providing year around nutrition is very important for health and antler growth. If there is not a good source of nutrition all year through, at certain times their bodies will become depleted. Then when the nutrition does arrive they are playing “catch up” rather then gaining all the benefits. Clover Plus is the “backbone” of my nutrition program. With its blend of perennial red and white New Zealand clovers and its mineral rich chicory, it provides the best in essential antler growing protein and nutrients.

A mineral supplement can also aid in antler growth. BioLogic® Full Potential is the best that I’ve found for good “bone” growth. The key is getting the right amount of certain ingredients at precise times. This product comes in three stages so that you give them specifically what they need at the time of the year they need it. It is a bit more difficult to use, simply because it requires three trips to the field rather than one. But if you want the absolute best antler growing mineral supplement there is, Full Potential should be your only choice.

If you provide more food, but don’t provide them

more “housing” then your impact probably won’t be what you expect. A whitetail’s world exists from six feet high to the ground. If you can stand on the ground in your hunting area and see for 80 yards in two or three directions, chances are your property is not holding many deer. You can plant fast growing plants that can help create bedding areas or do woods work to create the edges and diversity that whitetail like. A chainsaw is a whitetail’s “best friend.”
Some basic management philosophies should also be practiced. For there to be a trophy buck, a young buck must be allowed to grow old enough to sport trophy caliber “head-gear.” On the properties that I manage we stick to harvesting three-year-old bucks or older. Not all the bucks that we harvest are going to make Pope & Young, but they are still a challenge to hunt, so we consider an adult buck over the age of three to be a trophy.

If your property is typical of most of the country, if you want to see more bucks, bigger bucks and larger body weights, you probably also need to thin your doe population out a bit, possibly a lot. A given piece of land will hold and sustain X amount of deer. Because of the territorial tendencies of whitetails and the way that they disperse from the areas where they were born, a large matriarchal society may develop over time.
Let’s say that a doe has one buck-fawn and one doe-fawn. After the fawns’ first year, which is spent with the doe, instincts instill an urge in the buck to go seek out a territory a fair distance away from his mother. The doe also helps this by having her own instinct to drive her male offspring away. On the other hand, the doe-yearling will usually take up a territory right next to, and possibly intertwined with the doe’s home range. Some say that the whole arrangement is Mother Nature’s way to prevent inbreeding.

  It may require the assistance of professionals to help create a suitable clearing for your food plot.
If you don’t harvest some of the does, over time you get a big doe matriarchal society that just keeps getting bigger and bigger. When a year-old buck disperses from the area where he was born and goes off searching for where he will take root and spend the rest of his life, if he comes across your property he may not be able to stay because all of those X’s are filled by that large doe group. To see more and bigger bucks, balancing the ratio is very important.

One should strive for a happy medium. An equalized buck to doe ratio and a balanced age structure is what you want to try to achieve. If you think you see too many does in your hunting area, I would suggest targeting a few of the older, more dominant does in that herd.

You can recognize these deer in several ways. Their bodies are filled out more than younger does; they’ll usually have longer noses and just look older, and you can see they act dominant around the other deer. Also, they will almost always, in areas with at least normal nutrition available, have two or more fawns.  hear people use the excuse all time that “if I pass up the buck, or do all this work, my neighbor will shoot the buck anyhow.” I don’t care if you have 20 acres or 20,000 acres, whitetail are “homebodies.” What you do “here” makes a difference “here.” With an attitude like that, you will never make the hunting better for anyone, including yourself. And I’m here to tell you that in a short time your neighbor will see the results that you are reaping and will typically conform to the same program. If you practice the entire program of food plots along with habitat management and herd management, you can see a significant difference in two to three years.

Todd Amenrud is the Director of Public Relations, Territory Manager & Habitat Consultant for BioLogic.