Next! Passing on deer a challenge

When the deer antler restrictions went into effect in Pennsylvania in 2002, I didn’t know how to feel about it.

I was a fan of the possibility of shooting larger-racked deer, but could it really happen? I think it’s safe to say that the biologists were right, and that antler restrictions have worked quite well.

Antler restrictions have allowed younger deer to grow older, making the possibility of shooting a Boone and Crockett deer a possibility.

Now, as a Pennsylvania hunter, I have a new dilemma, letting young deer walk. There’s been a push in the hunting community to not only shoot a legal deer, but a deer which is mature. It’s not always easy. Let’s not forget that there’s no law against shooting a 2-year-old 6-point. In fact, many deer hunters will do just that, fill their freezers and go home.

That’s just not for me.

In fact, I’ve allowed three young legal bucks to walk this season alone. Truth be told, I’m getting better at judging the age of deer not just by antler size, but by body composition as well.

I feel like I’m living in the early stages of the antler restrictions all over again, but instead of looking for a deer with three points on one side, I’m also looking for a mature deer to harvest. Maybe I’ve just doubled the challenge of being successful. Maybe this is something many hunters are already doing and I’m just a step behind.

Either way, passing on any legal buck is a learning curve for me. It’s going to take time, but I’ve already proven to myself in recent years that I’m willing to wait until the right buck crosses my path.



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