Hunters wanting to avoid harvesting a shed-antlered buck should avoid shooting lone deer and instead, wait for deer traveling in family groups.
In late December and January, bucks may be found traveling together in small bachelor groups, typically 2-4 animals, of only adult deer. If a small group of adult deer contains even one antlered buck then all the animals in the group are often bucks.
By contrast, a group of deer that contains fawns is very likely a family group composed of does and fawns.
Avoiding harvesting an older-aged shed-antlered buck is even easier. Because of differences in muscle mass, older bucks will move with a slower, more stiff-legged gait than does, and have a blockier, wider head. Hunters can make good use of binoculars to determine if antler pedicels or a forehead patch are visible during good lighting conditions.
Even without antlers, the body type of a buck, how it moves, the deer it travels with, and how it interacts with other deer provides definite clues to its sex.
For the late season hunter the key to being successful at avoiding harvesting a shed-antlered buck is patience and using binoculars whenever possible. Combine these with knowledge of deer behavior and the chances of taking a shed-antlered buck are greatly reduced.
If a shed-antlered buck is taken it should not be viewed negatively. Any deer that is legally and ethically harvested should be appreciated by the hunter for the great outdoor experience and meat it provided.
For many, hunting has as much or more to do with the time, effort, and woodcraft that went into the experience than with the end result.