. . . . . we set our sights on huntable trophies, deer that can be killed using strategy and skill, with a little luck mixed in.
This formula points primarily to 3.5 yrs. old bucks--any older, and luck seems to be the biggest factor.
If you want to kill a lot of 4 1/2 and older bucks,
the main aspect of that "formula" is as simple as passing up bucks that are 3 1/2 and younger. This is not so much a "luck" formula as it is a "mindset" formula. Nor does this really require some new "skill set" over regularly taking 3 1/2-yr-old bucks. It just takes the mindset to pass up the 3 1/2's you COULD
take, but CHOOSE
not to take.
The main reason so many people "think" so much luck is involved is mainly because they would never pass up a 3 1/2-yr-old buck (unless of course he had unusually small antlers). Yet only by regularly doing that can you come to see how those mature bucks so often are simply just back in the shadows, letting a younger 3 1/2-yr-old buck kinda "check things out" before the old man steps out. Not to mention, by passing up 3 1/2's, you help create more "huntable" populations of 4 1/2's.
Likewise, if you're not seeing a "huntable" number of 3 1/2's,
it could be as simple a solution as your doing nothing more than passing up more 2 1/2's. Not saying this is always the case, just that I've seen it be the #1 reason for most hunters not seeing more bucks in the next age class.
HAVING true trophy bucks in the area is one thing. Being able to kill them is a completely different story, especially if those bucks are 5 1/2 or older. Those are truly tough nuts to crack...
While I'm not totally disagreeing with you, I think the hunting skills necessary to consistently take mature bucks is being overstated.
Any hunter who is consistently having harvest opportunities at 3 1/2-yr-old bucks has the necessary hunting skills to be consistently having harvest opportunities at mature bucks. Granted, the older they are, generally the more elusive they are, but the difference is not as great as some are implying.
IMO, an analysis of the buck harvest (and that being "archery only") at President's Island proves my thinking. Not only is the hunter success rate exceptionally high there, but the average age of the harvested bucks is 4 1/2 and older.
No one should ever expect to see as many 4 1/2's as 3 1/2's, nor 5 1/2's as 4 1/2's, as we should never expect there to be as many another year older available, no matter what we do. But, BSK, if YOU
really want to begin seeing more 5 1/2's, the best strategy is not luck, but rather simply YOUR
deciding to pass on more 4 1/2's. You may not WANT
to do that, but that's the best way to start seeing more 5 1/2's.