John's Journal...

How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style

How to Judge the Buck’s Age by Studying Him

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Today, the concept of trophy-deer management or quality-deer management is learned from how deer are managed in Texas. To raise trophy deer like Click to enlargeTexans do on the land you hunt, you’ll need a lot of money, plenty of land and numbers of trophy deer. This week, we’ll take a look at Texas deer management, where I hunted with Trijicon, a company that provides aiming solutions for hunters, law enforcement and the military with its various rifle scopes. Trijicon is supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project (, giving a portion of each sale of Trijicon to this organization.

When we returned to the Duval County Ranch in Duval County, Texas, my guide, Douglas Kubetka, reviewed the video of the bucks I didn’t take with the ranch manager, David Kitner. Kitner agreed with Kubetka that the other buck I wanted to take was probably 4-1/2- to 5-years old and would have been a trophy buck. I asked Kubetka how he looked at a deer and not only determined what the deer’s antlers would score, but the age of the deer. Kubetka said, “The first thing you look at when trying to determine the deer’s age is the deer’s body. Is it block-shaped or long? A block-shaped deer will be older than a long deer. An older deer’s neck will be joined to its body right at the brisket. On a young deer, you can definitely see its neck. An older deer’s head looks like it comes out of his shoulders with very little neck. A young buck’s hind legs are long and spindly, resembling a race horse. A young buck will probably be less than 4-1/2-years old. If all four legs look like they’re about the same size, you can assume you’re looking at a 4-1/2-year old or older buck.

Click to enlarge“If you look at the deer’s eyes, and they appear elongated or slant-eyed, then you’re looking at a 4-1/2-year old or older buck. A younger buck will appear to have more-roClick to enlargeunded eyes. The hardest age to really pin down is a 4-1/2- or a 5-1/2-year-old buck because bucks look very similar at that age. You usually can tell the difference between a buck less than 4-1/2-years old or a buck over 5-1/2-years old, because older deer have a pot gut and somewhat of a swayed back. Also, older bucks don’t look as streamlined as 1-1/2- and 2-1/2-year old bucks do.

“Besides feeding minerals and corn to our deer, our soil has a lot of calcium and minerals in it, which is why we can grow so many deer with big antlers here. We keep the population down by harvesting does and taking a certain number of management deer every year. Also, we mow cinderos, a wide strip of mowed land that looks much like a power line right-of-way. To age deer correctly, you have to be able to see and study the deer. If a buck is in the grass, many times you can’t see all the key factors required for aging that deer correctly. Our management program is quite expensive.” Kubetka only guides about 10 to 12 hunters per season.

For more information about the Duval County Ranch, call (361) 394-6313, email

To learn more about Trijicon, go to

Tomorrow: How We Have Monster Bucks with David Kitner

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style"

Day 1: What Is the Duval County Ranch?
Day 2: How We Judged the Bucks’ Antler Sizes
Day 3: How to Judge the Buck’s Age by Studying Him
Day 4: How We Have Monster Bucks with David Kitner
Day 5: Rewards of Conscientious Deer Management


Entry 436, Day 3