The Daily, The Field, The Woods, Thoughts

Should We Protect Button-Bucks?

Some whitetail authorities question whether protecting button-bucks during the hunting season is right. I admit to some mixed feelings on the topic.

It’s important that we remove some doe fawns each year. We can’t afford to feed them all winter, and then have them giving birth to one or two fawns next spring. It would continue to swell our deer herd, and could quickly put it out of balance.

We try to protect the button-bucks while knowing that many of them will die in a tough winter, but still we try to keep them alive while concentrating our hunting efforts on does and doe fawns.

Button-bucks like this are almost impossible to tell from a doe fawn.

Many hunters know to bring a really good pair of binoculars when they hunt, and I expect them to use the binoculars to study an antlerless deer’s head before shooting. Even with strong binoculars it can be very difficult to tell a young button- buck from a doe fawn.

Some button-bucks have one- or two-inch buttons or knobs on their head that can be seen with the naked eye. Some also have a head almost as smooth as a bald doe fawn.

There are times when the buttons are more like a pimple on a teenagers face. except in this case, the pimple is buried under hair. On occasion, that button (or pimple) will barely nudge one or two hairs out of place.

A casual glance would probably result in that little button-buck being shot. Some hunters say the button-bucks have a darker coat than a doe fawn, but I’ve seen button-bucks with dark and light hair at this time of the year. Hair color is not a good indicator of sex.

Button-bucks often are more aggressive. They may be bigger than a doe fawn although I’ve seen some button-bucks that wouldn’t produce enough meat to make four big burgers.

Trying to tell the difference between a buck fawn and a doe fawn can be very difficult with some small deer.

Doe fawns often hang closer to the does, and in the winter, often get kicked around for their efforts to feed. Doe fawns often sniff the nose of their mother, but I’ve seen button-bucks do the same.

Some authorities feel cropping button-bucks is fine because they may not live through a hard winter anyway. Some feel that the loss of very small bucks is nature’s way of eliminating excess animals that simply can’t or won’t survive the perils of winter.

I’ve found many dead deer during a bad December with cold temperatures and deep snow, and almost all of the young ones found are button-bucks. If that is the case, why the age-old stigma against shooting young male deer?

We are a product of our environment, and many of us have heard the hoary old messages about sparing “next year’s antlered bucks.” It appears, from some of what I’ve seen, that button-bucks have a tenuous grip on life during a severe winter. They are walking a tightrope between life and death during the winter and don’t know it.

Doe fawns, although I’ve found some dead at this time of year as well, seem to have a slightly stronger survival instinct. All I know is that if a button-buck is accidentally shot by a hunter who can’t see the tiny beginnings of antlers on the deer’s head, the chances are very good that animal would not survive anyway.

We still try to protect as many button-bucks as possible, but we don’t grieve over the loss of a few. If we don’t shoot some, the winter will certainly exacts its toll on them.