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Montana mule deer rant

FREAK

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Maybe it is, but from that pic I would say no.

@antlerradar would know
Yeah to me it looks like a 125-130” deer held way up to the camera with the ears propped back. His body looks small. His face looks kind of old but idk, I was just curious if someone had a better idea how to tell when afield. I’ve passed a lot of #oldwarriors unintentionally, thought maybe I could learn something and start culling some of these bucks in the future.
 

antlerradar

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Maybe it is, but from that pic I would say no.

@antlerradar would know
It is just hard to tell form a picture, Could be 4, could be 8+. Maybe Matzinger got a chance to look at his teeth. Plenty of bucks on private in eastern Montana that die of old age and never get better than this buck.
I picked up these antlers not far from where he likely shot that buck. The brother of one of my best friends shot this buck, Lab aged at 12, so the sheds are from years 10 and 11. DSCN3731.JPG
 

FREAK

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It is just hard to tell form a picture, Could be 4, could be 8+. Maybe Matzinger got a chance to look at his teeth. Plenty of bucks on private in eastern Montana that die of old age and never get better than this buck.
I picked up these antlers not far from where he likely shot that buck. The brother of one of my best friends shot this buck, Lab aged at 12, so the sheds are from years 10 and 11. View attachment 252462
yeah, maybe he had some history with the deer and knew that was all he would be...That would make sense if he's hunting the same stuff year after year.
 

antlerradar

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If you were trying to reduce age structure of bucks and overall heard numbers what do you think would be the most efficient way?

Short answer liberal doe tags and rifle hunting during the rut. Just saying.
While this may be true for some places, I am not convinced it is for eastern Montana. The best way reduce age structure of bucks is to hunt them hard when the largest number of buck are on public land. Bucks on pubic are endanger of getting shot at all times, doesn't matter if they are old or young, antlers are big or small.
On private land hunters select for antler size and with a long season during the rut a hunter can afford to be very selective. It is true that as a buck gets older the antlers get bigger, but it is also true that young deer can have big antlers and some deer will die of old age and never grow anything but small antlers. On private the young three year old with 160+ antlers is likely to get shot. The three point that will never be better than 130 will die of old age.
Most of the does are living on private in eastern Montana and during the rut the bucks are right there with the does. A few pages back @EYJONAS! joked about the old saying " the rut is when the big ones come out". The truth is the big ones were always around, just that before the rut they were up in the hills where most lazy asses didn't want to walk. The biggest migration in eastern Montana is bucks leaving the hills/public for the river or creek bottoms/private to rut with the does. This is made even worse when thousands of doe tags are issued with no restrictions on if they are filled on public or private. Long seasons with lots of pressure tend to push deer to the safety of private and keep them there.
The best way to reduce age class is to tailor the season so that the maximum number bucks are on accessible land during the season and it is likely that this needs to be done on a region or unit sized scale and not a state wide one size fits all season.
 
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Beignet

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Honest question for folks who’ve been at it a while: Were things really much better 20-25 years ago? Or, have they just gotten that much worse from whatever the baseline was then?

I found this description in the back of an old Eastman book from the late 1990’s and it sounds like it could’ve been written yesterday.
 

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ShootsManyBullets

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Honest question for folks who’ve been at it a while: Were things really much better 20-25 years ago? Or, have they just gotten that much worse from whatever the baseline was then?

I found this description in the back of an old Eastman book from the late 1990’s and it sounds like it could’ve been written yesterday.
Today it would read:
"Hunted hard for a week, laced em up tight and even added some gaiters to make sure we went deep but didn't see a mature buck. Montana is obviously on the leading edge when it comes to mule deer extermination management. If there new plan is as bad as their current plan I'll stay on private down here in Wyoming. If you're bright enough to get through Montana's draw system and have an outfitter, you're going to do well b/c outfitters are far superior hunters compared to most of the DIY public cockroaches - just ask them. Just remember that the Achilles heel of outfitters is greed."
 

Nick87

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While this may be true for some places, I am not convinced it is for eastern Montana. The best way reduce age structure of bucks is to hunt them hard when the largest number of buck are on public land. Bucks on pubic are endanger of getting shot at all times, doesn't matter if they are old or young, antlers are big or small.
On private land hunters select for antler size and with a long season during the rut a hunter can afford to be very selective. It is true that as a buck gets older the antlers get bigger, but it is also true that young deer can have big antlers and some deer will die of old age and never grow anything but small antlers. On private the young three year old with 160+ antlers is likely to get shot. The three point that will never be better than 130 will die of old age.
Most of the does are living on private in eastern Montana and during the rut the bucks are right there with the does. A few pages back @EYJONAS! joked about the old saying " the rut is when the big ones come out". The truth is the big ones were always around, just that before the rut they were up in the hills where most lazy asses didn't want to walk. The biggest migration in eastern Montana is bucks leaving the hills/public for the river or creek bottoms/private to rut with the does. This is made even worse when thousands of doe tags are issued with no restrictions on if they are filled on public or private. Long seasons with lots of pressure tend to push deer to the safety of private and keep them there.
The best way to reduce age class is to tailor the season so that the maximum number bucks are on accessible land during the season and it is likely that this needs to be done on a region or unit sized scale and not a state wide one size fits all season.
Good point, different here where it's 99% private.
 

Eric Albus

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It is just hard to tell form a picture, Could be 4, could be 8+. Maybe Matzinger got a chance to look at his teeth. Plenty of bucks on private in eastern Montana that die of old age and never get better than this buck.
I picked up these antlers not far from where he likely shot that buck. The brother of one of my best friends shot this buck, Lab aged at 12, so the sheds are from years 10 and 11. View attachment 252462
Agreed. 100%.
The buck in photo is mature, I’d hazard a guess of 5-6, possibly but not likely older. May be the best set of antlers he ever produced, maybe not. We took a 9 yr old 3x3, four counting eye guards, couple years ago, 34 inches wide but not much to write home about after the width. He was. 29-30 inch buck the 2 previous years, and really thin antlered.
 

antlerradar

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Honest question for folks who’ve been at it a while: Were things really much better 20-25 years ago? Or, have they just gotten that much worse from whatever the baseline was then?

I found this description in the back of an old Eastman book from the late 1990’s and it sounds like it could’ve been written yesterday.
Twenty years ago it was trophy quality that was starting to slip fast. Now trophy quality is all most gone and the biggest concern is the population decline. We have had big population drops in the past. Winters of 78 and 96 come to mind. Mule Deer numbers always recovered. Now the population is struggling to recover on public land.
 

antlerradar

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Agreed. 100%.
The buck in photo is mature, I’d hazard a guess of 5-6, possibly but not likely older. May be the best set of antlers he ever produced, maybe not. We took a 9 yr old 3x3, four counting eye guards, couple years ago, 34 inches wide but not much to write home about after the width. He was. 29-30 inch buck the 2 previous years, and really thin antlered.
At least with something that wide you can find someone that will take him. I can think of some old bucks that were so lacking in the antlers that even young kids would pass. Those bucks died of old age.
 

MTTW

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Honest question for folks who’ve been at it a while: Were things really much better 20-25 years ago? Or, have they just gotten that much worse from whatever the baseline was then?

I found this description in the back of an old Eastman book from the late 1990’s and it sounds like it could’ve been written yesterday.
That accurately describes the mule deer hunting that I experienced in the 90s. It is so much worse now that it is unrecognizable in Southwest Mt. Numbers of deer on public land is the big difference. The buck quality was gone here for the most part by the late 70s but occasional big bucks would pop up with exceptional weather. I am talking SW since I never had a reason to hunt eastern Mt back then.
 

MTTW

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I am curious what others think about this. If true it would explain the disappearance of mule deer from public land over time.

 

BuzzH

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I am curious what others think about this. If true it would explain the disappearance of mule deer from public land over time.

I think there could be merit to that theory.

Which again, is why I find it so ridiculous to hammer on does so hard in Eastern Montana. Even after big weather events, the FWP is slow or in some cases, don't even decrease doe tags.

I believe the problems that are starting to express themselves in Montana is largely linked to killing does by the truckload. Does produce buck fawns, less does to produce fawns, less bucks. Its not rocket science.

If Montana wants to continue to produce a lot of bucks, then you have to maintain a lot of does, not blast them into oblivion.

I've experienced the impacts of high doe harvest in the area I hunt whitetails in Montana...and 3-4 years of OTC doe tags really crashed the population. Its taken over a decade for numbers to bounce back to what I would call satisfactory numbers. Now there's talk of opening a doe season for a week at the start of the season, I disagree with that. The reason given is because the biologist and warden in the area are concerned about the number of 1.5-2.5 year old bucks being taken. I'm not worried about that in the slightest as a vast majority of those younger bucks are being killed off the roads by fat old white guys road hunting. The deer a mile behind a gate may as well be on the moon. Plus after a whitetail survives to a 3.5 year old buck, they're much harder to hunt.

I also believe Montana could sustain a high mule deer buck harvest if you have high deer numbers...but you can't when you hammer does, does that produce buck fawns. Having more harder access country would help (not just hard access due to it being private).

Finally, I think these animals learn a lot from each other. I know that in the case of elk, if you find a pocket of bulls its best to not be hammering on them too hard. Its also problematic when you see no smaller/younger bulls within those bachelor herds. That's a herd on the way out as people continue to hammer on them until there's literally none left. It takes decades and decades for those elk to learn to find those areas, and it takes decades and decades for new elk to find them once they're all shot out.

These animals are a lot more complex than most people realize, and something they/we should think about before pulling triggers so easily.
 

JT88

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I am curious what others think about this. If true it would explain the disappearance of mule deer from public land over time.

So, shooting truck fulls of does was a bad management idea? 🤦‍♂️
 

DougStickney

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I watched one group of North Dakotans wipe out a population over a period of 4-5 years. 4-5 guys 7 tags a piece and do the math on that. I talked to them one afternoon they told me North Dakota is way too restrictive with tags and they were just happy to shoot something. This is a big reason wildlife managers and biologists need to step up and do their job. Hunters are not going to self regulate and sign up for decreased opportunities. Time for MTFWP to step up to the plate. I don’t have much hope that they will.
 

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