'Experts' thoughts on button bucks
By John Phillips
Scripps Howard News Service
Recently we discussed how the fear of shooting button bucks (1-year olds) keeps hunters from taking the prescribed number of does from their hunting club properties or leases.
Here's what authorities in deer management think about harvesting button bucks from a herd.
If your hunting club fines hunters who mistakenly shoot button bucks while attempting to harvest does, the penalty may do more harm to your deer-management program than you realize.
If the fear of paying a fine prevents your members from harvesting the number of does you need to take to keep your herd healthy, then button bucks may cause the most problems for your deer herd.
"We need to take 400 does off our place this year, because our biologist says we're severely overpopulated," a landowner told me one year. "We would appreciate your help in taking the does, but look the does over carefully. We charge $500 if you shoot a button buck."
That afternoon, I hunted over a green field as two does came out onto the field. I watched as the smaller deer went up to the larger animal and attempted to nurse. I clicked my rifle off safety and prepared to shoot the bigger doe, but then remembered the $500 fine.
Something just didn't feel right, so I hesitated and put my gun on safety. The two deer moved closer to my shooting house, feeding to within 30 yards. I steadied my binoculars on the edge of the shooting house and studied the big doe's head. I spotted tiny antler buds that looked like two large ticks on a dog's back. I'd never know why the younger deer attempted to nurse a button buck. However, if I'd pulled the trigger, I would have had to pay $500. I didn't shoot any does that year, and I didn't pay any $ 500 fines. Had I participated in quality deer management?
When I asked Brian Murphy, executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association in Watkinsville, Georgia what's QDMA's position was on button bucks, he answered, "Our organization promotes managing for healthy deer herds, which promotes the growth of larger and older bucks. To have a quality deer herd in many sections of the country, you have to remove a certain number of does off the property every year. If you remove does every year, some of your hunters will inadvertently shoot button bucks, believing them to be does.
"We believe any penalty that discourages hunters from taking does in areas where does need to be removed to have a healthy deer herd is not a good idea. As long as the hunters who hunt a specific piece of property keep the button buck harvest to 10 percent or less of their antlerless harvest, they don't need to be concerned about taking button bucks."
From surveying state wildlife agencies across the nation, Murphy reports that most states' antlerless harvests include 22 to 23 percent button bucks. Murphy considers 22 to 23 percent a little high for the number of button bucks that should be harvested from any herd.
He believes if a hunting club tries not to shoot button bucks, its annual button buck harvest will average somewhere close to 10 percent of the antlerless harvest. If a hunter mistakenly shoots a button buck, Murphy suggests using a teaspoon of sugar (a little good-hearted ribbing), instead of a pound of salt, (a fine equaling a week's worth to a month's worth of groceries), to solve the problem. Even trained wildlife biologists, who earn their livings managing deer, will make some mistakes and inadvertently take button bucks they've assumed are does.
Murphy, who teaches classes for QDMA to help hunters recognize button bucks so they won't mistakenly take them, provides a good example. "I'm as reasonably skilled at telling the difference between a button buck and a doe as any hunter anywhere," Murphy says. "In the past 10 years, I've harvested 200 does, and of those 200 does, I've accidentally taken four button bucks."
Mistakes will happen, and hunters — even trained scientists — will bag a few button bucks. Although Murphy believes the mistake factor for taking button bucks shouldn't climb higher than 10 percent, he agrees that even if you take 20 to 25 percent button bucks in your club or lease's antlerless harvest, you're better off to lose that 20 to 25 percent of bucks than not take the number of does you need to harvest from your property each year. The QDMA emphasizes the importance of keeping your herd's density in check.
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the deer in your hunting area are buttons at one year old, you need to hunt some place else. Button bucks in Michigan are 5 to 6 mo. old by hunting season. One year olds can be spikes on up to whatever they can grow. Unless you have a few miles of land to hunt your not going to see most of the buttons your letting grow in a few years anyway.
they have 2 doe seasons 4 days each , one before the regular gun season and one after . You are also allowed to bait . Net result = between 50 and 60% button buck harvest . And the DNR here is proud of thier reduction plan . It's all such a joke here but I strictly bowhunt for trophy sized buks and only lg adult does so I don't give a hoot what the others are doing .
and we have no such restrictions. The state is currently looking into doing QDM in a few counties down by NYC but it doesn't get implemented until next season. I doubt they will restrict button buck harvest as currently they are considered antlerless deer and can be taken on a deer management permit, which is valid throughout the entire season. I will say that most button bucks are 5-6 months old as terry v states. Any button buck that is a year and a half old probably doesn't have much potential at becoming a trophy (my opinion only).
I would say that if your hunting club or lease is that overrun with deer they better take a different look at QDM before enacting the fine route. All professors of QDM state the population must be reduced to acceptable levels before implementing any type of restrictions. All these deer takes need to be strictly monitored to assess the needs for further harvest. It is sometimes difficult to determine if a young deer is a doe or buck based on its demeanor or actions. At 30 yards it is no problem with binoculars if you are watching them over food plots. But QDM states that young deer, as well as older deer, need to be removed depending on certain factors.
You need to do your homework and possibly enlist the help of some top names in deer biology and beg to differ with the people running these clubs and leases concerning fines for button bucks. If it were me, I wouldn't shoot does either as that money could be better spent.