Do I have to wait for a “wallhanger” or a “trophy” before I can shoot a buck?
The minimum goal for all QDM programs is to protect most or all 1½-year-old (or “yearling”) bucks .. After all, it takes 3½ years to produce a 3½-year-old buck.
The minimum goal for all QDM programs is to protect most or all 1½-year-old (or “yearling”) bucks. If you have never killed a 2½-year-old buck and would be happy with this achievement first, this is where you should begin. Once this goal is met, you may wish to begin protecting 2½-year-old bucks as well, while trying to harvest a 3½-year-old... and so on. As long as you progressively improve the “age structure” of bucks (or the numbers of bucks in each age class), then the definition of a “quality” buck should be determined by your personal goals. However, you should also clearly understand the consequences of your goals – if you harvest 2½-year-old bucks, they will not become 3½-year-olds.
In a group of hunters with varying levels of experience, buck-harvest goals should be determined by the lowest level of experience in the group, or they should be a compromise between low and high. If buck-harvest goals are set far above the experience level of most hunters in the group, these hunters are likely to be dissatisfied with their QDM experience.
The most important thing is to set harvest goals that are realistic and appropriate for the deer population. If your definition of a “quality” buck is far above what the habitat and region are likely to produce, you will be disappointed. If you start with the expectation of harvesting mature bucks when there are none in the local population, you will be disappointed. After all, it takes 3½ years to produce a 3½-year-old buck.
QDM should be fun, and by starting with realistic goals and working your way up, you ensure plenty of fun along the way.