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Spawning off of Pat's thread just a bit... why is that areas like the far NE (CT, Maine, Mass, NY, NH, VT) part of the US cannot consistently grow larger racked whitetails? In your opinion, is it genetics? Is it minerals in the soil? Or... is it the combination of the two? Maybe hunter numbers? It just amazes me to see the landscape up that way and how fertile the land appears, yet those areas cannot produce larger racked deer like the midwest consistently does.
Genetics would be my first guess followed by or in conjunction with soil nutrients.
Not hunter numbers or age, as guys consistently kill older bucks that just don't grow big racks. Has to be a combination of genetics/nutrition imo. Seeing as a Canadian whitetail can grow a large rack simply living in the bush, and I am betting their feed is better than a bush buck, I'd lean towards genetics.
I can only speak for NJ, but in my opinion it is the deer never have time to mature. Every year there are a handful of bucks that get killed that anyone would shoot anywhere in North America, but by in large, the vast majority of bucks are killed when they are only a year and a half old. When we still had to physically check in out bucks at check in stations, I think the stat was something like 90% of all bucks that were killed each year were year and a half. With pressure like that, a true pope and young caliber deer is a rare animal where I hunt. In addition, we do not have the agriculture that is found elsewhere so I don't think the deer are getting the best nutrition to grow the largest racks. Where I hunt the only food for deer is natural browse and corn piles in the fall. I do not have the scientific knowledge to comment on the genetics that we have but from my time in the woods and running a large number of cameras each year, we have predominantly an 8 point gene in my area.
I agree somewhat with njbuck. Genetics are a huge factor, of course, but other factors can play a big role as well. Missouri is a prime example. There are some big deer killed in Missouri every year, but way too many young bucks are killed during their rifle season, which is right in the heart of the rut. If their gun season was after the rut, I believe Missouri’s potential for producing larger numbers of B&C class whitetails would rival Iowa, at the very least, in the northern third of the state.
I agree completely with t-roy Iowa has it figured out protect the bucks durning the rut. Are gun season same way right thur peak of the rut. And genetics are a huge part to.
Buck/Doe ratio/Phosphorus Availability (controlled by PH) also play an important role. To me,genetics is waaayyyy down the list and speaks more to rack configuration than total bone mass. I used soil maps to decide where to buy 20 years ago.
So Steve can you tell me What kind of phosphorus levels do you need? I’ve been putting licks out for over 20 years that bucks have been using with phosphorus in them What I am I missing???
Steve... can you share more info on your research?
Even in areas with good genetics not every buck is going to break 150 no matter how old he gets. Based on what I have seen and read it takes a buck 5-6 years to express genetic potential. In areas where you don’t have great genetics (or nutrition) and most bucks get shot at a young age you are going to have very very few big bucks killed. In areas with good genetics and good management you are going to get a lot of big bucks.... but you will also get a lot of older bucks that are not big scorers. Attached is a 7 point I killed in KY in’17. Scored low 130s based on only 7 points and crappy brow tines which is strong genetic feature on this farm. Even with poor genets he is a great buckand I am very proud of him. You can still have great bucks in poor genetic areas but you have to pass them up as 3 year olds
I believe it's both Genetics and Age.. Here in my area of Pa 20 years ago 80%+ of the deer killed were 1.5 years old. If a deer can't get to 4 or 5 years old Genetics don't mean much. Did my area always have the Genetics but just not the age??? Now with the point restriction and a major decline in hunter numbers I'm seeing the best bucks ever. My local taxidermist who retired now, I would stop in to see what came in to his shop. He said that the best buck he's ever seen have come in the last 5 years. He said he would see a 140 buck every year or so in the past. The last 5 years he mounted more 140's than the last 30 years and a 150+ was every few years, not 3 or 4 in a season.
Thing is most of the bigger deer were coming from mountains not farm land. So a question I have is what area/state has the best mountain deer?? The area I talking about has predominantly red and white oak and they have been producing great crops. My old phone had a meltdown this past January and I had pics on it of the floors under the oaks trees and there was dozens of oak nuts in every pic. Turkey hunting this spring I saw tons of acorns starting to root out that the deer and turkey didn't eat over winter there was so may and I guess their still eating last years acorns. So I think this area had the genetic's before but not the age? And now it has both. This area of Pa is a little north, about 30 miles of where some of the largest black bear in the county come from. Ed
Genetics - yes Nutrition - yes Early mortality - yes
I think it's all of the above. I've killed two 5.5 year old bucks in the last couple of years. Not an easy feat in New Jersey by the way! One typical 8 that grossed 132" and one 6 that grossed around 115". The 6 dressed over 200 lbs, the 8 dressed 190 lbs. These both came from Hunterdon County which is a primarily agricultural area with corn and beans being the main crops. I'd expect a lot more from a 5.5 year old buck in the midwest.
Cant speak for the other NE states but in maine mostly genetics for sure. The problem is that half the state has deer densitys of only 2,3 or 4 deer per square mile. You will rarely see a PY deer come from maine because there is just not enough deer to attract bow hunters in numbers. As for rack size there are many deer that I see yearly at the tagging stations that will score 150 plus with several well into the 160-170 range but they are never scored because they don't care about rack size just dressed weight! They kill more deer in a one week gun season in PA then there are total in the state alive. Very difficult to have high BC or PY numbers when there are not that many deer and the few good ones taken are never scored.
Here in NY I think nutrition and stress play a huge roll. I’ve killed a pile of bucks over 5.5 and only a couple gross over 125”. My buddies are in the same boat. A good 7.5 year old might be 125”.
believe it is age and nutrition more than genetics, I know the area I hunt has good genetics but they rarely live past 4.5 years old. I hunt a bow only area and it has been that was since 1977 when we had our first season in that part of the county. i know of a few bucks just this past year that grossed over 150 and 2 were 5.5 and one was 6.5. I actually had hunted one of them for a few years and he was killed this year 150 yds from me while on stand. Guys have to pass 3.5 and 4.5 year old bucks because even with decent genetics we may have a few bucks that go P&Y at 3.5 but once e get them to 4.5 and beyond not all but a lot of the bucks reach P&Y. I believe it is and can be area specific but again as long as the nutrition is ok and they come out of winter healthy all they need is age but with all the poachers and high population of coyotes in the area it is rare to see many bucks make 4.5 ecsp in the gun zones. Shawn
"The result of killing every buck that walks for 30 years and natural selection was never allowed to get a foothold."
If I'm clear here, then the past conservation efforts/tag allotments and hunters with (and still) the brown it's down attitude have caused the age structure and overall downturn in genetics? This resulting in less total antler growth per age. Also, in your opinion, would the genetics and antler growth improve to your liking if hunters were to quit hunting for say, 5 years? <--- I know that's not possible.
I think the biggest factor in Western NY is age not genetics. Where I am in Genesee and Wyoming counties plenty of 130'' deer are getting killed at age 3 1/2. Give those deer another 2 years they would be huge. I shot a 150 and a 180 (gross) that were only 4 1/2 year olds. We got the genes but not the age structure with a 2 buck limit, high hunter numbers, and an eleven deer per square mile harvest.
To be abnormal it requires a little bit extra in most variables. But, by and large, the greatest genetics in the world will be hid if the nutrition to express them isn't found in the soil.
Go buy a dozen nursery raised plant that deer browse and, plant them among the same species found in the wild. See which ones the deer browse first. That will pretty much sum it up.
Here in MA I believe a lot of it has to do with nutrition. We have some good acorn years but not every year and we have almost zero agriculture and crappy soil nutrients. We do have some very impressive bucks throughout the state though if they make it to be old enough. Normally they are either in big woods areas or in the suburbs with limited hunting. I do get some nice bucks on cam and have seen some while spotting at night off season, no weapon with me of course.
I live in Rhode Island but since 1999 I’ve Hunting in the Midwest.
Northeast deer hunters are just too darn proficient so the Midwest suits me where the hunters are still perfecting their skills:)
Good Answer Charlie!! Shawn
1.) Access. While there is increasingly a bit of written landowner permission, in parts of the north east you can literally hunt anything that's not posted. I think NH is still that way and MA is (outside towns with local bylaws). So, almost every where you would want to hunt, you can. Thus deer get hammered. 2.) Population... We have areas with LOW deer populations and large forested tracts with next to zero ag. So getting in range or even seeing a deer, let alone a mature deer, is very hard. Extremely. On the other hand, areas with HIGH deer numbers often come with written permission bylaws (or state laws, like CT) that essentially makes only state land huntable. So you have a high population of deer but minimal huntability, relatively speaking. 3.) Tradition - folks dont pass deer here historically. "We" kill everything. This may reduce the number of deer that get a chance to grow big and old... 4.) Nutrition - it's all browse and various forest foods like acorns. There are pockets of ag, but overall, deer here live off forest foods, which simply do not supply the same amount of nutrition with the same (lower) level of energy output. Always makes me wonder how big some of the 170+ " deer that have been shot here (MA) the past 10 years (Ma archers have increased the state record archery deer like 5 of the last 10 years) would have been in say, IA or OH or something. Yikes.
I dont think genes are a huge factor. With sub par food availability and generally harsh winters with solid fawn predation the north east still produces some big deer every year - deer that would be big in Iowa or Missouri etc. The genes are there to produce giants. But genes need time, food, modest stress to manifest antlers (or deer health) to the highest level... That can be tricky here.
The biggest challenges are food and hunting pressure, in my mind.
So, we have... genetics, nutrition, age (which has to do with hunter numbers pressure/lack of access). Could we say then, that genetics are low on the list because of the latter?
Now, if you had say... 2000 acres in Vermont or New Hampshire, could you manage a pretty successful herd and get similar results as the Midwest or even the neighbors to the North (Canada)?
Interesting thread. I have been a wildlife biologist for 36 years. I have spent many years studying whitetails in my home state of NC and served many years on our state deer management committee. Beyond the work I've done, I have had access to volumes of research and insights from leading whitetail researchers from all over these United States. One thing I've learned over these years is this: There is no such thing as "poor genetics". Your deer herd (insert your locale, county, state here) is genetically superior to any herd in this country for your locale. Through natural selection, your herd had "evolved" to be the best it can be for your climate, soil condition and habitat. Herd genetics is not something you can change so don't waste any time worrying about it. You can't change your climate either so through that one out of the mix. While you can amend soil nutrients to make it more rich, you can't change the soil either. So, if bigger antlers (more mature deer is what you're after) then manage the things you have some control over: habitat and age. Habitat is a no brainer-there's a wealth of information available to you on how to manage your landscape. The last manageable parameter is by far the most difficult to control but it can be done by restricting the movement of one part of your body-your trigger finger. Bigger antlers come with age and I can say that here on the east coast most of our bucks die before they can express their antler potential. As someone mentioned above most eastern US deer die before reaching the ripe old age of 2.5 years. A buck will not show his best antlers until he reaches 4.5 years. My post is already too long so if you want to discuss this further shoot me a pm.
Combination of factors. Age, nutrition, hunting regulations, genetics...they all factor in.
The biggest factor hands down is feed and minerals. I work on a deer ranch and we can make any deer huge with really good feed and right minerals.
Rick - here in SW MO Dr Grant Woods bought a huge chunk of land down next to Branson - all that’s there is rocks and oaks and hills. The area has been known for small deer and people speculated reasons why. Dr Woods is a wildlife biologist with a Ph D from Clemson. He has over a number of years increased the nutrition through food plots and also increased the age structure of the herd. Same genetics as before, he just changed the 2 other variables - nutrition and age and you need to see the difference. GrowingDeer.tv - it’s really incredible what he’s done down there and I didn’t think it was possible. In my mind I simply chalked up the puny deer down there to bad genetics. Genetics obviously plays a role, but I would put that behind age and nutrition.
I think you need to frame the question by defining the word "big" when it comes to wild bucks. Some guys will hunt their entire life and never kill a 150 class whitetail buck in the wild. So to them, a 155 net typical is a "monster". Others might say its gotta be a net-booner to be considered big.
Bought my Indiana farm in 1990 and over the last decades have expended much effort to let bucks get old. Having followed many of those individuals over those years, a good number have reached 6 years and older. Yet only one buck has ever come close to booner status. He was a genetic miracle with a booming 12 point typical frame and several abnormals. Most bucks here that reach 5 to 7 years of age, top out at 125-155 class. Fine bucks indeed, but not genuinely "big". From what I've observed on just my own farm, for the standard gene pool there's a hard limit on how big a wild buck can get, regardless of age. Even with the herd immersed in an ocean of row-crop agriculture, and with the benefit of mild southern Indiana winters. The limitation is probably either genetic or mineral. I guess I wouldn't want it any other way. If booners were common, they wouldn't seem special.
There are deer all over the country that never reach their true genetic potential due to their environment. Age certainly helps but if the plants they consume are lacking nutrients then they won't ever express full potential. Genetics are very complicated. It can take several generations of proper conditions before genetic potential is expressed in the form of large antlers.
If the majority of your bucks are killed when there 1.5years old then the majority of your does are breed by 1.5year old bucks which i think slowly but eventually degrades your genetics. You need good, solid genetic bucks that are 3.5-5.5year old bucks breeding the majority of your does. Also the midwest is the heart of the grain belt, we have large timber stands with vast amounts of corn, soybean and wheat fields which helps fatten them and get them thru the harsh winters.
Look at families that in the prior generation or two struggled but the next generation got good medical care and nutrition. The boys will be taller than dad and grandpa by 8th grade. Same for the girls and their mothers. South Korea's average height is significantly higher than North Korea. Deer or elk or rabbits are the same if comparing the same sub-species. An Eastern whitetail and Coues whitetail are not the same but the whitetail in Souther Missouri and Northern Missouri is the same but a mature Northern Missouri whitetail will weigh 50 pounds more on average and have more mass and length on antlers at the same age class.
I have a friend who has a 5000 acre lease in OK. they have always killed good deer on the lease, I will say good is anything over 140"s. 3 years ago they started a mineral supplement feeding program and have paid the rancher to leave standing crops. Last year they started seeing results and they actually killed a couple deer over 170"s. I again agree that it is age and nutrition, genetics comes into play but no where near nutrition and age. Shawn
How about a definition of big racks, are you talking B&C, or P&Y? I believe where I hunt it is about people taking any legal buck as well as the accessibility allowed by smaller parcels. They just don't get a chance to mature. On the other hand, I have a 4 1/5 year old 8 point buck that scored 150 gross, and two 11 points that grossed over P&Y minimum.
8point... insert what you would like. My point was that everyone wants to come hunt the midwest (which I have ZERO problem with), or buy land in the midwest for whitetails. It sounds to me after hearing from many fellas from up in the NE (including yourself), that it comes down to amount of land per hunters. Which the age class takes a big hit when it's already crowded and people are shooting deer before they mature. Guess it would go to reason that genetics are low on the list of factors for growing big bucks.
Genesis... thanks for those studies. Interesting stuff.
Embry - I'd bet, if you could manage 1-2K in MA, CT, RI, NH, ME, VT etc, that you would have some big racked deer consistently killed in the 4.5+ YO range. I'd bet a lot on that. Was it Genesis who noted deer in an area are specifically adapted to live in that area having a family tree which has evolved in that area? I think that makes sense.
Using MA, if you look at the NEBBC books, historically western and central MA were where most of the big (book sized) bucks were shot. It's got to be 50-50 or even 60-40 now in favor of eastern MA. The genes and food didnt change. More and more those eastern towns have started no hunting without written permission laws... Thus access became tougher and deer stood a better chance of growing.
One of the bucks I took this year is a good example of what Pat is talking about. 5.5 years old, 187#’s dressed and a small set of antlers. This isn’t uncommon.