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Passing bucks and success rate

meyeri

PMA Member
When you guys pass deer with the intention of letting them get another year bigger does this generally work out for you? I'm just curious how often a buck is passed and actually harvested?

By passing I mean either choosing to not hunt a specific buck or passing a shot opportunity, so basically any deer that has potential to be a shooter so you let him go with hopes he makes it another year.

I know there are a ton of variables and some of you guys with big tracts probably have better success because you can control a lot of the variables.
Me on the other hand, my areas are pretty high pressure, so of the deer I have passed I have killed one out of 12 or so in the last 4 years. Quite frankly that sucks. Three of those bucks were killed by other hunters, but most deer just disappeared at some point, so I have no idea what happened to them.

A couple of the bucks I have passed have been mature deer that I would have been happy to wrap my tag around, but I risked it and gambled on them making it another year because they had crazy upside. I'm starting to question a couple of those passes, you know the whole bird in hand is better than two in the bush situation. At what point does passing a mature buck in a high pressure area become foolish? What do you guys experience?


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IowaBowHunter1983

Super Moderator
Staff member
Highly farm dependent. And I don't think it's necessarily big farm vs. Small farm. Alot has to do with layout, shared cover, etc.
 

203ntyp

PMA Member
I know there are a ton of variables and some of you guys with big tracts probably have better success because you can control a lot of the variables.
Me on the other hand, my areas are pretty high pressure, so of the deer I have passed I have killed one out of 12 or so in the last 4 years. Quite frankly that sucks. Three of those bucks were killed by other hunters, but most deer just disappeared at some point, so I have no idea what happened to them.
Highly farm dependent. And I don't think it's necessarily big farm vs. Small farm. Alot has to do with layout, shared cover, etc.
Never seems to work for me. Small area with patchy wood lots, neighboring pressure. It sucks but this isn't the mid-west with large populations of mature deer. I passed a lot of buck waiting for the biggest and it never works out.
 

newfarmer

Active Member
I think very area dependent. We’ve had huge success passing- usually 3-4 years even. A few new neighbors and I see some “video” guys have moved in close so that might change
 

[email protected]

Active Member
I pass almost every buck I see because I'm not interested in shooting them and if they get shot by a neighbor there is nothing I can do about it. I'd say about 1 out of every 4 bucks I pass survives the season. All it takes is one or two weak links in the management for mature bucks around the neighborhood, and it can make a huge difference.
 

kelcher

Well-Known Member
My experience has been about the same as yours. There have been a few that I just watched when they were 120 inch deer that I got to see when they were in the130's, but the ones that I passed that were 140 or so hoping to see them at 160 have never come back.

One of these days it will work.
 

wapsi-bottom-BP

Active Member
I pass on plenty of bucks, but for a different reason than you described.. I'll pass a deer because it's not the "one" I'm looking for at that particular moment for whatever reason, or I know a bigger one is in the same area, or it's first hr of the hunt and I might gamble on a bigger one stepping out, lots of reasons but not really to let them grow another yr, because I don't know if I'll ever lay eyes on it again.. do I say in my head "hopefully he gets bigger next yr" yes of course I do.. but if I pass one it's not so I can hunt it next yr, it's because I simply didn't want to shoot it right then

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hillrunner

PMA Member
I've had pretty good luck with it. Low gun hunting pressure in the neighborhood makes a big difference. I've been able to follow several bucks from 2 or 3 up to 5 or more.
I've also had many that just disappeared never to be seen by me again. Even when I find the sheds it's no guarantee they won't relocate. I have 1 buck that was around as a 2, 3, and 4 year old which I passed and then he was gone. That buck showed back up 4 years later as an 8.5.
 

Sligh1

Administrator
Staff member
On small farms I’m gonna guess I’ve had a 25% success rate on personally catching up with a deer I passed years prior. Which I personally think is really good. Even if that means years later someone else gets him. I’d say overall survival on small farms has been a touch better than 50% if I guessed.

Bigger farms- probably catch up with 40 to maybe 50% of bucks passed. I’m gonna give gut guess of survival if passed at maybe 65%. Total Guesses of the cuff averaged out over 20+ years. Some farms & years are vastly different but my guesses/experience.

Clearly I know not all will make it. & if someone else shoots a deer I passed & gets bigger - I’m glad about that. Glad I passed a deer that fulfilled the season of another hunter. Passing them can mean u never see em again or maybe you are rewarded big down road. I’m ok with that personally …. Expect that not all gonna make it. But enough do were well worth it IMO. I’m also never gonna shoot a buck “just to fill my tag”. Even if I hunted a farm I’ll never be on again, if it’s not a “buck I’m stoked to shoot” - I’ll gladly eat my tag.
 
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Windlooker

Well-Known Member
On small parcels, under 400 ac, minimal chance you’ll watch em grow and kill him at maturity , imo. Different story on a large controlled block, ie 600 ac plus. I hunt 300 great acres and have never shot a deer I passed. Unlucky I guess.

I’m probably wrong but the 200 in deer killed last week was most likely on a large controlled property, watched, passed, and killed at maturity before the rut and walk about.

It usually comes down to the size of property hunted and your ability to control pressure and harvest.

I recall several years ago the Drurys hunting a large farm they claimed they left untouched for 4 years. Lol. How many have that luxury. Is that hunting or growing/killing? Idk. A little of both I guess
 
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Rous14

Well-Known Member
Highly farm dependent. And I don't think it's necessarily big farm vs. Small farm. Alot has to do with layout, shared cover, etc.
Agree with this response.
We‘ve had great success passing and then killing that deer the next year. In fact every buck we’ve killed on our farm (have had it for 4 seasons so only talking 5 bucks in the last 3 years but still) was a buck we chose to pass the year before.
‘I’d say the bigger issue I’ve had is other target bucks disappearing at some point in the season to never be seen again and I know all my neighbors pretty well to know whether they killed it or not. That’s been frustrating for me. What doubles the frustration is that for as many target bucks as I’ve had wander off apparently, I seem to get very few “suprise“ bucks that show up from somewhere else. It’s strange.
 

meyeri

PMA Member
I pass on plenty of bucks, but for a different reason than you described.. I'll pass a deer because it's not the "one" I'm looking for at that particular moment for whatever reason, or I know a bigger one is in the same area, or it's first hr of the hunt and I might gamble on a bigger one stepping out, lots of reasons but not really to let them grow another yr, because I don't know if I'll ever lay eyes on it again.. do I say in my head "hopefully he gets bigger next yr" yes of course I do.. but if I pass one it's not so I can hunt it next yr, it's because I simply didn't want to shoot it right then

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I pass deer for the same reason as well. Some years I'm hunting a BIG buck so stud bucks get to walk, other years I'm slim so a average mature buck may fit the bill.

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meyeri

PMA Member
I've never been one to shoot a deer just to shoot a deer, I've definitely raised my standards over the years as I've gained experience. I also haven't filled a firearms tag on a buck in a long time and last year I didn't fill a buck tag at all even though I had opportunity at some good deer, just didn't get shots at the specific ones I was after. I was fine with tag soup, it's part of hunting and my goals. The frustrating thing is passing bucks that would be in your top 5 and they disappear the following year. That's the point where I question my passing strategy. Lol

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bigbuckhunter88

PMA Member
Not entirely sure how many deer we've passed, we have killed, I don't keep good enough records, but probably quite a few. I've been pretty singling out 1 deer and going all in on that deer. By default I'm passing up alot of other deer that are killable by just not hunting them. I have also passed a ton in stand but I've kind of given up following deer from year to year unless they show up when they are one i want to kill. Our property has highways on 3 sides of it. Lose a ton of deer to cars every year so it's not worth getting all amped up over the young ones. We have 1 neighbor who is like minded and is usually hunting a handful of deer and the other neighbor likes to shoot everything and lots of them.
But the majority of mature, big bucks that we kill, we have sheds, pics or visual sightings of the year or 2 prior
 

JNRBRONC

Moderator
I’m an edge, so who knows what happens when they leave. Had a few I watched for maybe 2, 3 years. Harvest rate is pretty low on targets.


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I’m in Georgia but I hunt good land and it’s a large tract of timber. I get pictures of big bucks that I would shoot and pass many 3 yo hoping they get to 4 but they all seem to disappear. Had a bunch of shooters last year and many nice 3 yos but nothing on camera this year. For the most part, we have good neighbors and in this county he has to be 15” wide to shoot him.

I still don’t shoot a deer just to do so. Too many does around if I need meat or just have a itchy trigger finger.
 

Bucksnbears

Well-Known Member
My last "target buck by years old.
5 6 and 7 years old.
Killed him at 8 years old but can't find a pic?
Granted, I wanted to kill him at 5 but he was a super Ghost.
The only time I seen him in 3 years before I killed him was Christmas day but he had already lost one side so I let him go.

He never was a "big" bodied buck.
When I killed him, (the night Trump got elected), I'd guess he would have dressed (maybe) 180#.
He lost quite a few inches from 5_8 years old.
One thing I learned from this is some bucks just tend to be reclusive

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Daver

PMA Member
When you guys pass deer with the intention of letting them get another year bigger does this generally work out for you? I'm just curious how often a buck is passed and actually harvested?

By passing I mean either choosing to not hunt a specific buck or passing a shot opportunity, so basically any deer that has potential to be a shooter so you let him go with hopes he makes it another year.

I know there are a ton of variables and some of you guys with big tracts probably have better success because you can control a lot of the variables.
Me on the other hand, my areas are pretty high pressure, so of the deer I have passed I have killed one out of 12 or so in the last 4 years. Quite frankly that sucks. Three of those bucks were killed by other hunters, but most deer just disappeared at some point, so I have no idea what happened to them.

A couple of the bucks I have passed have been mature deer that I would have been happy to wrap my tag around, but I risked it and gambled on them making it another year because they had crazy upside. I'm starting to question a couple of those passes, you know the whole bird in hand is better than two in the bush situation. At what point does passing a mature buck in a high pressure area become foolish? What do you guys experience?


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Yes, much of the time a buck that we let go will be around the following year, but not always. But depending on surrounding pressure, etc, that percentage of survivors could be quite low in some areas.
 

Buckscrape

Active Member
Finally found a target buck so I have time to reply while I'm sitting in the blind, lol.
I've been pretty fortunate in that I seemed to only have a single target deer 9 out of the last 12 years (only one whitetail per hunter here). So I guess I'm basically passing all of the other deer. Do those other deer survive? I think the percentage of survivors goes up the older the buck is. Maybe 50% of the two yr olds make it to three, 60% of the threes make it to four, etc until they get to 8 or 9 - I really don't expect to see them the next year (but some have surprised me, ha).
 

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