Ed O. from New Jersey writes to ask about the lack of big bucks there. “I’ve hunted some other states, and comparatively, I see fewer big bucks in New Jersey. My friends say it is habitat, but I don’t believe that. What are your thoughts on why we don’t have more big bucks in New Jersey?”
Ed, the answer is pretty simple. As my friend Gene Wensel says, “don’t pick the fruit until it is ripe.” New Jersey is the highest state relative to the percent of yearlings in the harvest. In fact, they have that sad distinction for 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2011, 62 percent of their buck harvest was yearlings.
Your surrounding states are pretty high as well, with Pennsylvania at 50 percent, New York at 54 percent, Connecticut at 44 percent, and Maryland at 57 percent.
If you don’t let bucks age, then you just are going to have smaller, younger bucks out there. Age trumps nutrition and genetics every time.
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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 31 years.