How To Judge A Shooter Buck

Upstate Outdoors
October 13, 2017 - 10:20 am

Phillip Gentry

Now that firearms season for whitetail deer has opened across the Upstate, deer hunters are looking for cooler weather to move in so some serious deer hunting can take place. It’s always good to have an idea before you get into the stand of what you intend to harvest should the opportunity arise. Are you hunting for meat for the table? A trophy for the wall? Or maybe something in between?

Many hunters have been in a situation where they were in their deer stand and “something” steps into a field or shooting lane. The typical scenario is a buck on the prowl, usually at a considerable distance and in low light conditions. The hunter’s eyes immediately go to the rack.


“The rack has little to do with whether or not a deer has reached it’s potential growth” claims quality deer management hunter Leslie Smith. “Many hunters see what they think is a trophy deer because it’s got a visible rack over it’s head.”


 Once it’s on the ground, “ground shrinkage”--meaning the hunter gets a chance to actually see the entire deer in relation to it’s body, takes it’s toll and the hunter may even have regret for not letting the animal walk.


Since a deer reaches it’s best antler maturity at somewhere in the 5 ½ year old range, learning to distinguish body features that classify that deer at it’s maximum potential, is much more reliable than simply judging by it’s rack. From a  management standpoint, it’s better to judge a trophy deer based on it’s body features rather than just the rack alone. In comparison, a trophy deer shares many characteristics with a middle aged man:


Thick Body – The most reliable characteristic is a full, thick, mature body which identifies this animal as a trophy buck based on sizeable body weight.


Sway Back – Age and maturity, as well as a big gut, give this deer a slight sway in its back.


Rounded Shoulders – One trait that distinguishes this animal from a husky younger deer are rounded shoulders, another indicator of heavy body weight.


Roman Nose – A hooked or round nose, also referred to as an Aquiline nose, is derived from the fullness of the face but also makes reference to a fierce fighter.


Squinty Eyes – Also caused by higher body mass, eye lids may even look puffy.


Wide Neck – This photo was taken during the rut, which further increases this buck’s size based on its swollen neck. The neck minimally decreases in size from the shoulder to the head.


Fat Brisket – These are “man boobs”, another place weight accumulates.


Saggy Belly – Years of consuming “grain products” have the same effects on deer and humans.


Short Legs – Overall this deer’s legs are normal sized but look short when compared to the size and girth of the body.



In Other News

ANDERSON, S.C. — Amateur bass anglers from the U.S. and nine foreign nations will compete next week on Lake Hartwell in a tournament that will be the ultimate test of their fishing skills.
The event is the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors. The competition is Oct. 19-21 with the tournament based in Anderson, S.C.
What began as an American sport has grown globally through the B.A.S.S. membership, and specifically through the club network known as the B.A.S.S. Nation. The qualifiers advanced through local, state and regional club tournaments to reach the championship.
Joining anglers from 47 states are those from Mexico, Japan, Australia, Portugal, Italy, Zimbabwe, Namibia, the province of Ontario and the Republic of South Africa.
Also on the qualifier list is the Paralyzed Veterans of America champion and defending championship winner Ryan Lavigne of Gonzales, La. The Ascension Area Anglers club member scouted the tournament fishery just prior to the official off-limits period that began in mid-September.

“It will take a cold snap to get the fish moving because the water temperature was too warm during my (recent) trip,” said Lavigne. “But I do like fishing offshore and in deeper water more than anything else.”
The long-term weather forecast predicts daytime high temperatures in the mid-70s and nighttime lows in the 50s. That’s about 15 degrees cooler than current highs and lows.

Daily launch and takeoff time is 7:30 a.m. ET. The weigh-in begins at 3:45 p.m. All events will be held at Green Pond Landing and Event Center in Anderson.

Phillip Gentry is the host of “Upstate Outdoors,” broadcast from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays on 106.3 WORD FM. This week’s guest will be Luther Cifers, CEO of Bonafide Kayaks, a new kayak manufacturing company based in Greenville.


 Photo Caption – Learning to judge the whole deer and not just the rack will give deer hunters the clues they need to harvest a trophy buck at the right stage.


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