Is There Such Thing as a 'Cull' Buck

Is There Such Thing as a 'Cull' Buck
For many, a buck like this is a true trophy. But to others it's nothing more than what is labeled a “cull” or “management” buck. Just because it may not be the one you are looking for, doesn't mean that it is accurate to say it's a cull/management buck.

Growing up in the Northeast, the term “cull” or “management” buck was not in my vocabulary, nor did I ever hear it mentioned. If you harvested a buck; it didn’t matter whether it was a 3-inch spike or solid 8-point. It wasn’t until my first year of graduate school, at Mississippi State University, that I heard term used commonly.

A “cull” or “management” buck is one that is of inferior genetics or does not meet the standards of what an average deer should be in that herd, at a certain age. For some hunters it is a daily term, but for others they will never use it. Many indicate that it’s common when managing for better quality deer. But recently, it has been a topic of discussion if a “cull/management” buck really exists or if it is simply an excuse to avoid peer criticism.

Why It’s Such a Hot Topic

Although there are some hunters that communicate and educate effectively, there are just as many putting out bad information to the general deer hunting community. In the last few years, it’s startling the number of people that show me their cull-buck photographs.

To kick this off, we need to lay the foundation for culling a buck out of the herd. It’s hard to put your finger on the exact time frame or location in which it started, and really this isn’t laying blame, but culling of bucks was likely initiated in Texas. Now before you start the high-fence rant, Texas has done a lot of great things over the last few decades to progress deer management. In fact, many of the practices serious deer managers perform on their property today – in terms of herd management – probably originated in Texas.


But the history is not really what we need to harp on; it’s what is happening today.


I’m going to start the debate by saying that I believe – 100 percent – that cull or management bucks exist. I’ll even take it one step further and say that they even exists in high-pressured, deer hunting states like Pennsylvania.

Can I get anymore bold? Sure; I think they even exist on public lands in these areas.

Now before you start saying that I’m full of it, hear me out. Most of the cull or management bucks labeled are subjective, meaning it’s not a true black-or-white decision. That’s not what bothers me. What gets my blood on fire is the simple labeling of a buck as a cull or management because of the fear of peer criticism that the hunter expects to follow if they do not “cover their (you know what).” Blame it on anything you want, but the bottom line is we need to stop making excuses for harvesting an animal that many would have be thrilled to harvest.

Why They DO Exist in Deer Herds

Yes, I said it. Cull or management bucks exist in almost every deer herd out there today. However, far too often the term is used when it is nowhere close to being accurate, in my opinion. The context, in which I believe it does exist, is when a deer truly is derived from inferior genetics. We will never alter the herd genetics through culling, contrary to what most believe. However, through years of target specific pressure, we can make certain lines/traits more prominent.


A perfect example is antler-point restrictions (APRs). Though APRs have done wonders for many states in helping to recruit bucks into older age classes, it also has protected what may be the lower quality bucks and subjected higher quality bucks to harvest within the same age class. Let’s take the 4-point to a side APR that many states use as an example.

This is a great way to get a large percentage of the 1 ½-year-old bucks to 2 ½. However, the bucks that are vulnerable to harvest include the potentially better quality 1 ½-year-old, 7-plus-point bucks, leaving the 1 ½-year-olds with 6 or less points to move into the next classes. Though there has not been a whole lot of definitive research, some studies suggest the overall antler size of older-aged bucks harvested in post-APRs, is smaller than bucks harvested during pre-APRs. Many hunters in states with APRs are seeing some very large 4- to 6-pointers, where historically they have not.

That’s a little biased though, since most deer failed to live past 1 ½ years old, so there were fewer older bucks to reach those bigger antler sizes. So take that with a grain of salt.


I also believe that for some privately-owned, intense, free-range properties there are deer that would be accurately labeled a cull or management buck. This isn’t because they are labeling a buck as being genetically inferior; it may be a mature 8-point. However, it is labeled a management buck because there are deer with better potential competing for resources with that buck. By removing him from the herd, bucks with greater potential are allowed to have access to more resources, such as food, space, does, etc.

with that being said, one of these two is more factual-based than the other.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” And for many, there is nothing better than a big, mature 8-point. Where things can get out of line is the irresponsible, tossing around of the terms, mainly as an excuse, rather than a fact.

Nothing More Than an Excuse

Not a day goes by on social media during deer season that I don’t see a post about someone shooting a cull or management buck, when in fact they have killed a great deer. As I said before, growing up in Pennsylvania, the terms were never mentioned. Even today, there aren’t many hunters that use those terms, it’s just not in the culture.

In my career, I have labeled a lot of deer as management bucks. I don’t use the term “cull” all that often as it sounds too degrading. Most management bucks have been labeled such because they don’t meet the landowner’s expectations and/or there are deer with more potential that would benefit from the extra resources. Once a deer reaches maturity – usually 4 ½ or 5 ½ depending on the property and area – I label it a “trophy.” It can’t be a management deer once it’s reached that age class, in my opinion. It’s more than the antlers at that point. You now have to outsmart a deer that has ducked arrows and outrun predators for many years.

So when I see great, mature bucks being harvested and labeled as culls or management deer, I sometimes get worked up. Just because a buck isn’t a monster doesn’t mean we have to hide behind calling him a cull. If that’s the case, don’t shoot him. Let someone who would truly appreciate a deer like that harvest him, like a kid.

This type of labeling and masking contributes to giving hunting a bad name to the non-hunting public. I remember the days of shooting any buck and you were praised. Now, we live in a community of critics and experts who always have to add their “two cents” about your harvest.

I praise all of you who give congratulations to those successful hunters whether it’s a doe, spike or Booner. To me they are all trophies, and I am grateful to be able to harvest any deer. I just might not choose to harvest every deer I have an opportunity at. Call me picky and I can live with that.

I want to shoot a stud of a buck just as much as the next hunter, but when I shoot one, it’s a trophy regardless of what is on its head, end of story. I am blessed to have the opportunity to harvest an animal I wrap so much of my life around. And to be honest, a freezer full of venison is better than a taxidermy bill any day of the week.

The tradition of deer hunting in many areas lives on, but it has definitely taken some blows. In the end, the only person whose opinion of your harvest that matters is YOU!

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Minn Kota's Brad Henry shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead that there's much to like in the new Minn Kota Riptide Terrova saltwater trolling motor that comes with I-Pilot and an 87-inch shaft.

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

MLF Pros: What

MLF Pros: What's Your Go-To Lure?

When all else fails, here's what these pros tie on.

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

Fresh off catching the biggest bass in ICAST Cup history, 13 Fishing pro Jessie Mizell shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Big Squirm soft plastic worm and the company's unique Pathfinder topwater walking bait that is totally weedless in design.

Trending Articles

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish time after time. Catfish

10 Secret Catfish Baits You Didn't Know About

Anietra Hamper

We found 10 secret (and proven) catfish baits that have the staying power to attract catfish...

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range Ammo

10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river. Catfish

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell - April 04, 2018

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

See More Trending Articles

More Whitetail

Master the hang-and-hunt strategy to unravel the deer rut. Whitetail

Field Skills: Go Mobile to Tag Rutting Bucks

Tony Peterson - November 22, 2019

Master the hang-and-hunt strategy to unravel the deer rut.

Advice can be tough to follow when a whitetail is on the ground. Whitetail

The Shakes: When a 6-Pointer Becomes a 3-Pointer

Jeff Johnston - March 12, 2020

Advice can be tough to follow when a whitetail is on the ground.

Hunters have a love-hate relationship with deer decoys. Here's how to get the most out of your next setup. Whitetail

Whitetails: How to Deke a Bruiser

Bob Robb - November 25, 2019

Hunters have a love-hate relationship with deer decoys. Here's how to get the most out of your...

Optimize your rut strategy by knowing when to use calls and when to stay quiet. Whitetail

The Pros & Cons of Calling Deer

Bruce Ingram - November 22, 2019

Optimize your rut strategy by knowing when to use calls and when to stay quiet.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.