The Big Blow Up

It's rare for me to have the privilege of watching a buck get older. Oh, I get to track the odd 2-1/2 year old make it into the beginnings of maturity the next year…but that's often the end of my history with him. In my area, a 3-1/2 year old buck is a special critter; not exactly rare, but certainly unique and often hard to keep tabs on.

Of course, the jump in growth from a buck's second set of antlers to his third can be amazing. Mass, height and width can all skyrocket, turning a simply "pretty" buck into what many, many hunters would consider a trophy. But when a buck gets the chance to reach full maturity--those prime years between four and eight--he can truly turn into a giant.

I offer the buck pictured above as Exhibit A. In the first photo (sent to me by a friend whose name and locale shall remain secret) he's certainly nothing to sneeze at; nice mass, good tines and fine beams (at least the one he didn't snap off). But check him out in the second pic, shot just this summer. He's absolutely blown up into a stud! Of course the velvet exaggerates his mass, but imagining a broad, heavy-racked buck doesn't take much of a stretch here. I just get a kick out of seeing just how big these boys can get as they age, and I hope you do too.

So how about you guys? Have you had the chance to track a buck's growth over several years and see him at--or close to--his full potential?