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About the Author Chris Eberhart is a lifelong bowhunter and author of numerous hunting articles. Visit www. John Eberhart is an experienced whitetail deer hunter from the heavily hunted state of Michigan, where he has twenty-one state record bucks. Average Review. Write a Review.
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They sought revenge for the massacre at To complement hunter density, we calculated the absolute number of bucks entered in the Pope and Young record book from a few representative states at both ends of the pressure spectrum, and then took an average score of the bucks entered. There is an almost direct inverse relationship between hunter density and the number of record-class bucks produced: the more hunters, the lower the chances that a hunter will take a mature buck.
Not only are more bucks entered from the states with light hunting pressure, but also the average score of those bucks is much higher than in states with high hunter density see the table on page xx. This leaves us with the suspicion that the rates of buck entry in the record books are lower in states with light hunting pressure than in those with heavy hunting pressure.
It simply takes a bigger buck to attract attention in states where mature bucks are almost commonplace, whereas a inch buck in a heavy hunted state is often considered the buck of a lifetime. We are aware of the limitations of these statistics. We are not able to account for many variables, such as developed land, human population density, varying habitat quality, areas devoid of whitetails, exclusive hunting areas in generally pressured states, or fluctuations in hunter density within states.
Michigan provides good examples of all of these. Hunter density, like general human population density, is far lower in the Upper Peninsula than in the Lower Peninsula. This fact distorts the hunter density average for the entire state. With a human population of about 10 million and the cities themselves taking up large amounts of space, hunter density is increased on the remaining land.
States with fewer large cities and people have more space for hunters to spread out. Habitat quality also varies dramatically in Michigan. The southern half of the Lower Peninsula is rich agricultural country. This area supports relatively high deer densities and produces more quality bucks than other areas of the state, despite heavy hunting pressure.
The northern half of the Lower Peninsula is a mixture of sandy woodland and swamp, with far less agriculture. The habitat is just not as productive as in the southern half for large deer.
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The Upper Peninsula, particularly along Lake Superior, has low deer densities and somewhat regular deer die-offs due to severe winters. After these die-offs, some areas are almost devoid of deer for several years. Deer densities vary considerably in the Upper Peninsula, from high deer densities in the southwest to very low deer densities in the north. Though big mature bucks are always taken in the Upper Peninsula, few are found in the big swamps that dominate that part of the state.
There are also exclusive areas in Michigan, mostly private hunt clubs, where big mature bucks are commonplace, just as there are heavily hunted zones even in the most lightly hunted states. Interesting, too, are the exceptions, particularly Wisconsin and Ohio. Both of these states produce high numbers of big, mature bucks despite relatively high hunter densities. We suspect that this is due to a combination of terrain features, state and private deer management practices, and regulations. Wisconsin and Ohio both have excellent deer habitat throughout their entirety, a situation that seldom occurs.
In most states, habitat quality varies dramatically from areas with deer overpopulation to areas devoid of deer. Ohio, with its single-buck rule, allows more bucks to live to maturity than otherwise. Michigan, on the other hand, with its multiple-buck rule and lack of a checking system, has more bucks killed and less departmental control over herd composition.
It is common for hunters to shoot the first buck they see, and then wait for a larger one. Or conversely, a hunter may shoot a mature buck, and then shoot a smaller buck later. States with mandatory deer checks also tend to produce more mature bucks than states with no such system. Wisconsin and Ohio both have mandatory check systems for all deer killed. Perhaps these systems keep some hunters from cheating.
Now that we have established the relationship between hunting pressure and number of mature bucks, it is clear that if you happen to live and hunt in a pressured area, you should be severely depressed. Just kidding! There is still hope. It is possible to kill mature bucks on a fairly regular basis, without having to move to Kansas, even in pressured areas.
This endeavor, however, takes a lot of hard work, dedication, patience, sacrifice, and a passion to hunt. If any of these elements are missing, you might be better off redefining your hunting goals and simply enjoy recreational hunting, rather than seriously pursuing mature pressured bucks. False expectations can be detrimental to simply enjoying the hunting experience.
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The real secret to hunting mature bucks in a pressured environment consists of hard work and paying very close attention to your surroundings throughout the entire year. There are no shortcuts, and we are not talking about hard work implementing a Quality Deer Management QDM program or working extra hard at your job to be able to pay for a guided hunt on managed property, though guides definitely have their place in hunting, and QDM, like any other habitat improvement, can be commendable in some situations.
Unfortunately, QDM and some other recent trends tend to mutate into shortcuts for hunters who are not prepared to do the work necessary to succeed in real hunting conditions. These trends take the form of trophy buck management, extremely limited access, astronomical leasing rates, and high fences, all of which can represent, in varying degrees, the ugly side of hunting. Exactly how wild is a free-ranging buck that has been named, whose sheds have been collected by the deer manager since its first set, and that has been allowed to reach full maturity before being harvested?
This is a question you have to answer for yourself. Ethics is always a gray zone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending time and money doing what you love. We spend probably far more money on hunting than we should, or than is healthy for our budgets. Everything costs money, including bowhunting.
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If you have the money and desire to hunt exclusive areas, set up extensive management, and hire guides, by all means do so. The best thing about hunting, though, is that it could possibly be considered the last best deal and one of the last bastions of equality remaining. Hunters come from all social and economic classes. In most states, a resident hunting license costs less than dinner and a movie. Nonresident licenses are available in numerous states for less than it costs for a round of golf on a decent course.
Bowhunting Whitetails the Eberhart Way
This is a pretty good deal, considering that most hunting seasons last for at least three months, and you get to keep the meat! There are equipment and travel costs involved in hunting as well. Such costs are part of any outdoor endeavor, from jogging to scuba diving. The low price tag of hunting is a golden opportunity for bowhunters. It is still possible to be an excellent bowhunter and take mature bucks without paying outrageous sums to do so.
Bowhunting also allows you to take part in the natural environment, which is valuable in itself. In , John took this five-and-a-half-year-old eight-point in a section that has well over forty bowhunters hunting in it. We prefer to bowhunt where we are able to take all the steps involved without any shortcuts. Perhaps we are old-fashioned, but to us, hunting is more than just showing up and shooting. It means constant effort and lots of time logged outdoors, all year long. We cherish the challenge that mature pressured bucks provide and the opportunity to spend as much time in the woods as possible.
Guides, large expensive leases, and private QDM efforts are as out of reach for us as they are for most hunters. Like most other hunters, we have neither the money, property, or desire for that kind of luxury. We are left to make the best of the ever-diminishing hunting opportunities that are close at hand and affordable, which involves gaining permission on private land, hunting on state land, and dealing with hordes of other hunters, not to mention nonhunters and antihunters. This situation has forced us to refine our hunting practices to reach even a moderate level of success.