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!

Recommended for You

It must be time for summer fishing because records are falling everywhere. Records

State Records Reported in Maryland, Michigan

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

It must be time for summer fishing because records are falling everywhere.

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat. Guns

MidwayUSA Pro Series Shooting Mat

G&F Staff

Shooters across the U.S. are using this competition shooting mat.

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish! Bass

Baitfish for Bass: Search, Suspend or Sink Crankbaits

Jason Houser - May 21, 2019

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish!

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

New Spinning Reel for Finesse Fishermen

As Pure Fishing's Andrew Upshaw explains, reel making giant Abu Garcia has done it again at ICAST 2019 with a new spinning reel geared towards finesse fishermen.

Berkley

Berkley's New Terminal Tackle

OSG's Lynn Burkhead and Chad LaChance, host of World Fishing Network's Fishful Thinker television show, talk about Berkley's new innovative terminal tackle being introduced at ICAST 2019.

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

          From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll find Bass

7 Best Bets For New Jersey Largemouth Bass

October 04, 2010

From Monksville Reservoir to Union Lake, plus five other picks, here's where you'll...

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these outdoor recipes. Wild Game

10 Memorial Day Recipes for Your Outdoor BBQ

OutdoorChannel.com Staff

Celebrate the start of summer with great food for your backyard BBQ or picnic with these...

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews of smelly ingredients often used to catch catfish. Catfish

How To Make Your Own Catfish Dough Bait

Keith Sutton - August 04, 2015

When it comes to fishing baits, you won't find a more unusual variety than the strange brews...

See More Stories

More Whitetail

New V1 Whitetail clothing systems feature apparel options for all seasons. Other Hunting

Thiessens' New Whitetail Hunting Clothing Line

Drew Warden - October 01, 2019

New V1 Whitetail clothing systems feature apparel options for all seasons.

It's not too early to think about next year; fall is a great time for planting. Whitetail

Mix Food-Plot Planting With Fall Whitetails

It's not too early to think about next year; fall is a great time for planting.

The efficient and economical all-in-one Firminator G3. Whitetail

Food Plots: Turn the Soil and More

The efficient and economical all-in-one Firminator G3.

See More Whitetail

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

×