As antler growth is slowing down and it really isn't too far off that we begin seeing the polished dry antlers on our bucks...we all begin whether formally or informally building our hitlists.
Hitlists are nothing more than a list of bucks a hunter is hunting that they'd be willing to sling an arrow (or bullet) at come hunting season. Some love to share these openly, others guard them more so than Gollum ever did the ring of doom...and a few do a little of both. No matter which you fall into the art of having a "hitlist" is a rather common practice amongst hunters these days.
However, it is the construction of these hitlists which I feel many a hunter truly misses the essence of what hunting is all about; a personal experience.
You see with social media, online forums and websites we as hunters are onslaughted with opinions of what is a shooter buck and what isn't. The sad reality though is that in my opinion only two factors should help the creation of a hitlist for anyone reading this...and outside opinions or influences ain't one of them.
#2 - Location, location, location. It isn't only relevant in real estate it is also relevant in expectations of antler development in the whitetail hunting world. If anyone has watched the Growing Deer Tv epidsode which discusses antler development and the impact nutrition plays in many ways as the key to open the doorway for genetics to truly show you already know where I'm going with this point. If you haven't however, do yourself a favor and watch it by checking it out HERE. That study further proves my point I've long held that your expectations or definition of a "trophy" for your hunting should be affected by the area you hunt.
I hunt primarily in Northern Indiana...not the mecca of the whitetail gene pool but it is very possible to down a 125-140 inch buck each year...that is typically a 3 1/2 year old buck around here. I'd estimate that 3/4s of all the bucks harvested around me are of the 2 1/2 year old variety so I like Grant woods attempt to hunt the upper 1/4 of the buck population. Aiming for a solid 3 1/2 but typically a 4 1/2 year old does mean accepting the fact some years I'll eat tag soup...but to me personally is well worth it. (Picture Left: A buck named Trident harvested in 2011 made our Hitlist)
However, transplant me out to Kansas where I was blessed to hunt last year and I'd be definitely targeting 4 1/2 year olds (trying to pass on all 3 1/2 year olds) and would probably in the back of my mind be thinking P&Y or nothing....all because of the location I would be in. This can be seen in the picture below of my good friend TJ (follow him HERE) with his 2014 buck, a representation of the caliber of bucks I was chasing while out there. Just a little different then my "typical" Northern Indiana buck I'm chasing each year.
Likewise but to the other direction transplant me to an area where everything is working against maximizing antler development (nutritional food sources and such or over harvesting of young bucks) and my expectations would obviously need adjusted the other way.
So when developing your hitlist don't think it has to hold 160, 170 or 180 inch monsters like you see posted all over the internet by folks...if you desire to hunt mature bucks simply hunt that top 25 percentile for your area and know if successful you accomplished something to be proud of.
If the age of a buck or the antler inches on his head are of zero concern to you read the next factor (biggest) when developing a hitlist.
#1 - It's your list, no one else's.
Since when did hunting become a non-personal experience? Guys all over the place each year harvest bucks and when asked about the hunt or the harvest they run through numerous excuses for why they harvested the buck...when no excuse was needed.
Hunting is an extremely personal thing and isn't something used to measure a man's manhood yet far too many take it as such. If a buck gets you excited and your blood pumping put him on your hitlist! If he doesn't, don't...it truly is that simple.
Good luck this year and may 2015 find you posing behind one of your hitlisters!
Small Acre Hunting