Dave's Got Mail: A Big (Buck) Debate

Where do you draw the line?

Field & Stream Online Editors

LAST WEEK, I WAS PRATTLING ON about how one hunter's idea of a big buck can be vastly different from another's. In the end, I asked you, How big is big? That is, What do you consider to be a big buck? What's a buck of lifetime? Do you pass up bucks, and if so, where do you draw the line?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I got a wide range of answers. Below are excerpts from a few of them:

Here in Maine, a buck of a lifetime is commonly based on weight, and the magic number is 200-plus pounds. To me, though, a trophy buck is any buck, end of story. This past season, in three months of hunting, I saw three bucks and shot one. It was a 6-pointer (an 8-point frame with no brow tines). It was a young deer, but I was still proud of it and will put the horns on the wall at camp. I'm sure to some guys that's not a trophy by any means, but it is to me.

I don't pass up bucks. If a deer has antlers, I'm doing what I can to make a good shot. And I think most people here have the same attitude.

-Jeff from Maine

A minimum score of 140 would be a very big buck to me. One scoring 160 or better would be a buck of a lifetime.

I almost always pass up at least three or four bucks per year. To my mind, spikes, 4-pointers, 6s, young 8s, and even young 10s should be passed up by almost everyone. Maybe if it's a kid's first deer or first with a bow ... otherwise let the buck grow up. Last year I drove into camp to see an 8-pointer with 3-inch tines and a width of no more than 10 inches hanging on the meat pole-made me want to throw up.

-Rodger from Texas

As you say, what's big depends on what's available to you. I have no problem with folks setting their sights high in areas that hold lots of big bucks. More power to them. What gets me, though, is some of those same guys suggesting that everyone should adhere to their standards-that shooting a buck that's less than fully mature, for example, is somehow unethical. That's ridiculous. I'd like to see these guys hunt the vast tracts of big woods I hunt. I'd like to see how many years it takes them to get their so-called "shooter."

_-Dan _

B&C; scores, counting antler points, "quality" buck management-it's all a lot of nonsense. These things place far too much value on the size of a buck's rack rather than on the animal itself. Every buck is big. Any buck is a shooter, as long as it's legal and you're comfortable putting your tag on it.

-Lance from Virginia

Here in Minnesota, I consider a big buck to be around 150 B&C; points. My deer of a lifetime is the one walking on our land right now. A long-tined 10-point, he'd go at least 180. For this whole season, I had my mind set on him and only him and was happy to pass up other, smaller bucks. I saw a 2 1/2-year-old that would have gone about 135, and I would have let him walk if he'd come in range.

-Chris from Minnesota

What's big depends on where you're hunting, of course, and especially whether you're hunting private or public land.

Here in Pennsylvania, a buck needs 3 points on a side to be legal, and on public land, any legal buck is a big one. If you're hunting private ground, God bless. You can consider whatever you want to be big. Compared to those of us hunting public land, you have a big advantage!

-Toby from Pennsylvania

In the group I hunt with, we consider a shooter buck to be one we're lucky enough to get a clean shot at. I guess we enjoy hunting so much, size doesn't matter.

In fact, most of the bucks we harvest are good bucks; more important, the feelings they bring make them bucks of a lifetime. I think any buck can qualify as long as you have a good group to share it with.

-Andrew from New York

I wouldn't know a 150-class buck if it was sitting in my tree stand with me. I don't pay attention to scores. To me, any buck with 8 points or better that's sporting a wide rack with tall tines is big, and quite possibly a buck of a lifetime.

-James

A buck that fills two shelves of my freezer is big enough. Three shelves would be a buck of a lifetime.

-Anonymous

I'm lucky enough to hunt several areas that hold some excellent bucks. To me, anything approaching 140-class or bigger is a spectacular animal, and that's typically my goal when the season starts, though I do lower my standards a little toward the end of the season. Each year, I pass up bucks that I'm sure many people would consider big elsewhere. But I think they'd pass them up, too, if they hunted here.

-Peter