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Selective Harvest

WeHuntSC.com - Intro to Game Management

In this blog series we're looking at concepts, practices, and approaches that can aid in managing game in a hunter's area. "Game management" in our approach stems from the perspective of "the everyday hunter" rather than someone who owns a ranch and is managing game as a business. We've looked at food plots in depth already in this series and in this entry we?ll look into the concept of "Selective Harvest".

As you would imagine, "selective harvest" simply means what you would expect, being selective about the deer that you shoot. This concept goes against the grain for some hunters because it means not shooting every deer that you see. Given a normal scenario, in order to have mature deer with good genetics on your land, a hunter simply can't shoot every deer he/she sees and expect to see a lot of "Monster Bucks" on the same land. Letting young bucks walk is critical in order to get mature bucks to hold on your land. I have been surprised at the number of bucks we're seeing now simply from practicing selective harvest on our hunting land for a few years.

WeHuntSC.com - Selective HarvestI'm no pro hunter and I'll admit that its way easier to "talk the talk" than it is to "walk the walk" when out in the field.  It's easy to get worked up when you see a deer and then the trigger finger starts to itch, but if you're trying to manage the game on your land then you must be able to control yourself. I try to think about the future and the bigger picture of what we're trying to do rather than getting caught up in the moment and yes it does get awful tempting sometimes.
Selective harvest involves a great deal of discipline. A hunter who is trying to manage his game must be disciplined about the deer that he/she does and doesn't harvest. The moments that I really debate whether I should or shouldn't shoot a deer are the moments I remember when I see the same deer the following year and he's that much bigger. We see the benefits of our discipline in the future by way of bigger, more mature bucks. It's also important to note that when it comes to breeding, it's better to have bigger, more mature bucks breeding the does than having the younger bucks mating with them. The helps spread good genes down the line to the deer of the future.
Several benefits can be drawn from implementing selective harvest in areas where game is being managed. The obvious benefit is that deer will mature and hunters can notice larger bucks over the course of a few seasons. A result that doesn't take as long to notice is that from practicing selective harvest on our hunting land I've noticed that I see more deer during hunting hours. Over time deer can "feel" it when hunters apply too much pressure and they either become nocturnal or simply stay away from the areas where they feel unsafe. When using the selective harvest approach deer aren't as pressured and disturbed and because of it they feel more comfortable about their environment. The more comfortable they feel, the more deer that will be seen. Every hunter that I knows enjoys seeing deer when they go out hunting.
One thing I've found helpful is to make the decision of what deer I will and won't shoot at before entering the woods. Once I make the decision, I stick to it. I go into the stand knowing that I will or won't shoot a doe and that I will only shoot a certain type of buck. I study the traits of a mature buck and I look for those traits if I see a buck while hunting. Having this knowledge helps me make decisions about the age of the buck and whether it's a "shooter" or not. Going in with a plan is always a good thing.
Many hunters think "If I don't shoot this deer then the guy in the woods across the road from me will." This may or may not be the case in every instance, but one can never truly know. We've tried to be proactive and talk about game management with hunters who hunt neighboring properties. Thus far everyone has been upbeat and responsive to this approach because ultimately everyone wants to see big deer. I think it makes everyone a little more optimistic if we know the people around us are also on the same page. Over the course of time, with everyone working together in our area, we are seeing bigger deer. The same concept can hold true for anyone who works at it and communicates. 
In this blog entry we've looked at a select harvest approach to deer hunting as it relates to game management. While being selective about the deer we do and don't shoot at can be tough at times, the benefits in the long run far outweigh the momentary happiness of shooting a small buck or doe. Selective harvest is a must in any game management strategy.

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