Where did the bigger bucks go???


New Member
Finally getting around to posting here after moving over from the other forum. I own 120 acres in NW Wisconsin and my neighbor owns 350 acres next to me. Over the past couple years we have added probably 15-20 acres of quality food plots. Our land has a lot of heavy bedding cover as well as numerous small creeks and occasional beaver pond. Three years ago when I moved here, and before either of us had food plots, we had less deer (lots of predators, over issued antlerless tags and bad winters) but more mature buck sightings by far. It seemed that in successive years as we added plots and improved habitat mature buck Numbers decreased. This year we have zero buck sightings or trail cam pics of a single buck over 2.5 years old and even those are rare. We know most of the hunters adjacent to us and we know they aren't killing them either. We do have a high number of 1.5 year old bucks (that we have been passing for several years) and numerous does and fawns. I know some will say that if we have does around, the big bucks will show eventually but can't really say our sightings or trail cams have ever proved that. While grateful we have deer around, it is frustrating because neither of us have a desire to shoot 1.5 year old bucks. The county we live in is closed to antlerless hunting due to recent bad winters. My question is, where the heck do all these bucks we pass go from year to year? Any ideas what we got going on that keeps mature bucks away? Doe factory?
I don't know about your area, but I feel a lot of bucks get shot around here out of season. I've heard of it happening too many times. I had a great buck to disappear once and found out later he got poached 2 farms over. Neighbor knew about it and said they did catch the guy, but I think it happens most of the time without anyone getting caught.

Heard of another instance this year where the landowner caught two guys and ran them off and they came back later anyway and killed the deer. They caught them, but a fabulous buck was just wasted....
If your area is closed to doe harvests because of several hard winters I bet that's what happened to your bigger bucks. They just can't recover from the rut with the cold harsh winters.
It could be possible that the added pressure/disruption from you moving there and adding all the food plots has caused the mature deer patterns to change. But it doesn't make sense that you aren't at least getting pics at night, unless there simply have been no deer making it to maturity around your place.

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Couple things, remember all animals follow a high and low pattern, the infamous "S" curve of nature. Variables from predation(man and animal), weather, food availability, herd population pressure, etc affect them all. Some things you can do little about. Here it was 3 bad winters with almost no hard mast. In addition, heavy hunting and poaching especially during a down economy. People have a lot of time to shoot deer out of season off their back porch when unemployed.
Sounds like herd numbers are down hence , fawn production is less. Remember the results you see are not typically from past year, but beginning of change several birthing seasons ago, whether it be an influx of great bucks or the opposite results. As I have done in those down years, just have to not be as trigger happy and hope it rebounds the following year. But I get it, it can be aggravating especially in high pressure hunting areas.
I had my worse year last year in over 5 years. Big bucks were no where to be found - even with good doe numbers. This year I have more shooter bucks on camera then I have ever had. No rhyme or reason.
Thanks for the replies. Interesting observation docdog. I should have mentioned that while the last two winters were mild, it was the two winters before them that were brutal And I couldn't believe any deer survived them at all. It was after those winters when I saw the biggest bucks. Starting to lean more towards them being dead whether it be a poacher or wolves or who knows why. If it was just pressure, I would still have to think that between our 18 trail cams something would stroll through a food plot at 2:00 a.m. at least once. Appreciate everyone's thoughts.
I had my worse year last year in over 5 years. Big bucks were no where to be found - even with good doe numbers. This year I have more shooter bucks on camera then I have ever had. No rhyme or reason.
I seem to be there this year. Last year I had three 3.5 year old 8 pointers that showed up around late September pretty regularly. This year nothing but does and yearlings. Frustrating, as I was really wanting to see how those three had developed. I think I have some corn feeding neighbors too. That never helps!
What's happening to your bucks is that they are getting mowed down by the hunters who can no longer fill their tags with doe permits.

We have the same issue. For over 20 years we had huge numbers of doe permits available so the wack-n-stack hunters were able to hammer the first does that walked out in the hay field every morning and they were done hunting by noon. The bucks never got out of bed before everyone was gone. Sure, some small bucks got it too, but the big boys knew how to keep their heads down.

Now that the deer numbers are way down and there are no doe permits, the bucks both young and old are getting hammered hard. Obviously, if you shoot all the young bucks, you get fewer and fewer older bucks every year. I strongly suspect that's what's happened to you.