Dusty McGehee: What is a shooter buck?

by Dusty McGehee

Rifle season is finally here and many of us have one thing in common – we all want to kill the biggest buck available.

Unfortunately, my camera surveys in Lincoln Parish are lacking in big bucks; aka shooter bucks.  But that’s okay, there are plenty of available targets to keep my kids entertained and keep food on the table. 

What defines a “shooter buck”?  

Well, that depends. For my 7-year-old, it will be the first buck that walks by.  For me, that means a 3.5-plus-year-old buck.  For you, that may mean something totally different. How did I come to the conclusion that a 3.5-year-old buck is a shooter?  Over the years, I’ve determined that’s realistically as old as they get on our land in Lincoln Parish.  Sure, there are a few outliers that have lived longer, but I can probably count on one hand how many bucks, 4.5-years-or-older that I’ve killed here.  It’s also no coincidence that most of those are hanging on my wall.

If you want to grow big bucks in Lincoln Parish, there is only one realistic way to do it. You must work with your neighbors and have the same common goal.  Most of my neighbors have been lifelong friends so it makes it easy.  We share trail cam pics of bucks and discuss what bucks we will target and what bucks we should pass up. Over the years, this partnership has worked, and we have all been lucky enough to take some really nice deer.

One thing I’ve heard a lot in my lifetime is the thought process that “If I don’t shoot him my neighbor will.”  That saying has always made me cringe a little.  For one, I don’t think you should make an excuse for a buck you shot, no matter what the size.  Just be proud of him, and I will be proud for you.

Also, while it may be true that the neighbor would shoot him, you just 100 percent guaranteed that he would not make it another year when you decided to pull the trigger.  So if you truly do want to kill a big buck, the shooting-before-my-neighbor-does strategy probably won’t work for you in the long run.

What age bucks do I think you should shoot?  Whatever makes YOU happy.  If you get excited and overcome with buck fever, then shoot whatever is in your crosshairs and I will be the first to congratulate you.  I will manage my property how I want to. It’s not my place to tell you what you should do on yours.  

There was a time in my younger years where I would truly get worked up over a neighbor killing a young buck that I had passed up.  I was having moments where hunting was not fun.  One day I finally had an “aha moment,” and knew I was going about it all wrong.  So, I changed my mindset and haven’t looked back.  I can promise you; hunting is a lot more enjoyable now!

So, as we start off this year’s deer season, I urge you to not have the mindset I had in my teenage years.  Go out and enjoy the woods and don’t worry about what others shoot.  We, as hunters, need to stick together and not fight amongst ourselves.

I hope everyone has a successful start to the rifle season.  Big bucks, small bucks, or does: be proud of what you take.  As for me, I just hope ANY buck comes in front of Ridge this weekend!

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