Trophy Does

Several years ago, I fired at the first deer I saw on opening day morning. The deer collapsed like the bullet had let the air out of it.

"Good shot!" I told myself and climbed down from the treestand to tag the deer.

I found the young buck easily in the knee-high weeds. He looked a little small, but I was glad to have filled my tag. Other years, I have not been so lucky.

Even describing the buck as "a little small" might still be an exaggeration. It was a button buck. Two fingertip-size nubs on its head showed where antlers would have grown. After I gutted it, I was able to lift the deer into the back of the truck without lowering the tailgate.

At the check station, I couldn't help but conclude that the hunters in line with me had seen larger deer than I had. I was comforting myself with the thought that it was just the luck of the draw, when a little girl sitting on an old man's shoulders stared into the back of my truck and said, "Oh, look, Grandpa! It's just a baby!"

Once free of the check station, I drove straight home. I'd already decided to butcher the deer myself. Processors charge by the deer, not the pound. Paying the full fee for such a small deer didn't make sense to me.

Don't get me wrong. I was happy I'd shot a deer and, at the end of a long day in the kitchen, had venison in the freezer. However, one single thing would have made the day much more satisfying--a bigger deer.

BIGGER DEER

There are many more young deer than adult deer. Adult does in Missouri usually have two fawns per year, and about half of the female fawns born that year will give birth around the time of their first birthday.

A deer--buck or doe--generally doesn't approach the 100-pound mark until its second year and won't reach its top weight until it is about 4 or 5 years old. Because of hunters and other threats, only a small percentage of deer--especially bucks--reach their peak size. As the record books show, however, the Missouri deer that man-age to reach their potential weight are real trophies.

TROPHIES

During a series of public meetings this year, many Missouri citizens and hunters expressed their desire to see larger bucks. The best way to