When is a Whitetail Buck Mature? Shoot or Wait?

Whitetail Deer Hunting Question

Submitted: “I just started hunting deer last year and shot a young buck after sitting about 4 days. I liked being outdoors and seeing all the wildlife action, but now I need to know when are whitetail bucks mature? The reason is that I have a 8 point buck on my game camera (see attached photo) that my friend says is 3 1/2 years old. My friend says he’s a good buck and the deer is much bigger than the 3 point I got last year. Is now a good time to harvest him?”

Whitetail Hunting

Response: This deer looks like a 3 1/2 year old buck. The buck will no doubt grow larger antlers with age, with many bucks peaking around 5 to 6 to 7 years old. A noteable fact about deer is that many whitetail bucks make a big jump from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years of age. This is because much of their resources, i.e. minerals, nutrients, etc., will go towards long bone skeletal growth, which takes 3 years to complete. This buck will probably get quite a bit better if you simply wait a year. The increase in available nutrients will allow his antler size to increase substantially.

Whitetail Deer Hunting and Mature Bucks

Of course, he will likely grow to be an even bigger buck antler-wise if you wait 2 or 3 more years from now. That said, you also run the chance of this being shot on another property by someone else. The deer could also be mortally wounded in a fight with another whitetail buck, he could come up ill or even get hit by a vehicle. The buck looks like a really nice deer.

It sounds like this would be your biggest buck ever, so that may be something that you personally want to consider. Deer hunting is not all about antler score and whether or not a buck is mature or not. I prefer to shoot mature bucks too, but I was also fortunate enough to harvest many that were relatively young in age. Hunting is really between you and the animal, no one else. You just need to decide if you are ready to shoot or wait.

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