When I was a young hunter, I saw lots of small bucks. I heard that Pennsylvania was known for small bucks, and that big bucks were more common in states like Wisconsin, Iowa, and Kansas. Our deer were a dainty subspecies of the whitetail which never gets very big.
Now, things have changed. Instead of having small deer, I now know that the vast majority of deer in Pennsylvania were young deer—deer that never really got to grow up. As many as 85% of our bucks killed during hunting season were yearlings, having reached their first birthday, and were wearing their first set of antlers. With a million hunters out to "get their buck," most hunters shot the first deer they saw with antlers, whether it was a spike, a four-point, or better. I was one of those hunters, and as a young hunter, I probably never saw a truly mature buck.
Now that we have antler restrictions, we are killing more mature bucks. But why aren't we getting more of them? If bucks are growing up, what keeps more deer from growing record book antlers? That's a fair question, and one I've thought about as it pertains to deer in northeastern states like Pennsylvania and New York. In this week's Jamestown Gazette I identify seven reasons "Why Most Bucks Don't Get Big."