Cumberland Times-News


December 28, 2013

Name that buck

A management buck is an eater buck with a fancy name

It was reported on this very page several weeks ago that now that the buck season is over it is time for the stories to begin.

A guy was telling me a big one the other day, and I won’t say his name nor tell the whole story but he is a retired school teacher and seasoned outdoorsman. The great part about the story was when he said he was walking through a field and looked up and “there stood a buck with a peach tree on his head.” Now that’s a buck.

That description made me laugh and to start thinking about the different ways hunters describe the deer they see or shoot.

When I was a kid, a buck was a buck was a buck. There were not many of them, and if it was a deer with a horn on its head it was simply that, a buck. If the antlers were of the rare type that had a beam with points, it was a big buck. If it had more than 6 points it qualified for the title of Wall Hanger.

Back in the overpopulated deer days of the ’90s, many of us in the DNR jokingly referred to the ever-common spike buck as a Hampshire County 11 point (wait for it, it will come to you.)

Then you have the basket-six point, which is a buck with a small but well formed set of horns.

When a guy tells you that he killed a big bodied deer you can be pretty sure it had puny antlers.

I have noticed that when an outdoor journalist writes about the times he settled for shooting a spike buck it is always, and I mean always, a “fat spike” or better yet a “winter-fat spike.”

Those of us who are meat hunters are not immune from embellishing our stories a bit. On my side of the river you never just kill a doe it is always a big-ole doe, or some of the old timers will kill a big-ole dry doe.

The buck descriptions do tend to be more colorful. A friend of mine often talked of bucks with a rocking chair on their head, and we have all heard about the deer that was wearing a hat/coat rack for horns.

I notice that the TV guys often put a regional descriptor to their kill, such as a big Kansas buck or big Missouri buck. I keep waiting for one of them to shock us all with their honesty and say big buck that was raised inside a big fence. Do the backstraps of a Kansas buck taste different than those of a Missouri buck?

With the advent of quality deer management and more across-the-board interest in trophy deer, someone came up with the term shooter buck.

Now my mountaineer granddad would have said that any buck was a shooter buck.

If it had horns someone needed to be shooting. But I think the shooter buck today is most probably one that fits the QDM standard of 16 inch or better antler spread.

That is fine, and in truth has probably spawned a safer generation of hunters who are taking a longer look at their targets before they pull the trigger. However there are also the legions of guys who are simply looking for an eater buck, one that will put meat in the freezer and provide the fuel for a story to tell when they go back to work.

The hard core QDM folks will often talk about the management buck, a deer with small or poorly formed antlers that needs to be removed from the gene pool. Honestly I think that is nonsense.

A management buck is what some guys call the one they shoot late in the season when they are getting desperate for meat. It’s an eater buck with a fancy name.

As a confirmed doe hunter I am always on the lookout for mature slick-heads, and as such want the one with big floppy ears or a nose as long as a traffic cone. No tulip-eared button bucks for me, at least not until it is getting late in the season and I feel the gnawing need for more deer steaks.

I am from the school of hunters who say that antlers are good for nothing but stirring soup.

However, if that deer with the peach tree on his head ever walks past me in buck season he could be in trouble. He sounds downright interesting.

Dave Long is a retired West Virginia natural resources police officer and a frequent contributor to the Outdoors page.

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