Summit Treestands
Deer age and antlers question
Whitetail Deer
Contributors to this thread:
wildwilderness 05-Jan-20
wildwilderness 05-Jan-20
wildwilderness 05-Jan-20
greenmountain 05-Jan-20
JTV 05-Jan-20
drycreek 05-Jan-20
wildwilderness 05-Jan-20
Jack Harris 05-Jan-20
chillkill 06-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 06-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 06-Jan-20
JTV 06-Jan-20
wildwilderness 06-Jan-20
wildwilderness 07-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 07-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 07-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 07-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 07-Jan-20
wildwilderness 08-Jan-20
chillkill 08-Jan-20
Fuzzy 09-Jan-20
Fuzzy 09-Jan-20
wildwilderness 09-Jan-20
chillkill 10-Jan-20
Castle Oak 10-Jan-20
SD BuckBuster 10-Jan-20
wildwilderness 12-Jan-20
weekender21 12-Jan-20
Bow Crazy 14-Jan-20
Matte 14-Jan-20
weekender21 17-Jan-20
wildwilderness 17-Jan-20
05-Jan-20
I was hunting my buddy’s lease in central Arkansas and wanted to see if there is a consensus on age of small bucks - spikes and fours pts?

We all agree a button buck is a fawn- 6months. Then there is a class of spikes- about 3-4” usually always solo - how old? Can they be a big fawn? I say they are 1.5?

Then there is a group of small 4 pts 4-8” tall and narrow. They act aggressive at the feeders chasing off does and spikes. My buddy says they are 1.5 as well but they are definitely bigger and more dominant as well. Could they be 2.5?

As a whole the genetics are poor in this area and often a mature buck will be a 6pt. I know it hard to say but there are a number of mature cull bucks on camera but they are hard to kill once they get mature. Is it possible to tell at a younger age they have poor genes?

05-Jan-20

wildwilderness's embedded Photo
“Grandpa” on camera a couple years at least 4.5-6?
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
“Grandpa” on camera a couple years at least 4.5-6?
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
6 pt -rutting does when shot. Buddy says 2.5 I say it’s older based off the other deer sizes
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
6 pt -rutting does when shot. Buddy says 2.5 I say it’s older based off the other deer sizes
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
5pt following a doe. Way bigger than the 4 pts class buck. Would you say 2.5 yrs? Could it be 3.5?
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
5pt following a doe. Way bigger than the 4 pts class buck. Would you say 2.5 yrs? Could it be 3.5?
Here are a few pictures of the bucks (the cull bucks were shot with a rifle) over the years

05-Jan-20

wildwilderness's embedded Photo
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
Plenty of does shot with a bow, including one on Jan 1, 2020 in the morning to start the year and decade off !

05-Jan-20
Spikes are normally 1.5 years old. Rarely they are first year deer. I saw a buck once with about four inch spikes bad spots on his hide. Yearlings can also have eight points but seldom have a lot of antler mass. It is good you care about deer.

From: JTV
05-Jan-20
around here, buttons are 7-8 month old deer, a small spike may also be of that age usually 80- 95 lbs field dressed... 1.5 gr olds will have a rack of some sort from a dink 2-3 pt to formed basket racks, 110-130 lbs FD... none of any of those will be killed by me .. many Bucks here if given time to age to get past that magical 4.5 yr (heck even to get past 3.5) old mark will be 140-150" and many larger .... we have the nutrition, the genetics, but there are those that will kill the first antler deer they see and dont make it past 1.5 yr old ..... ... on the state land I hunt, that is very hard for bucks to do (age) and I'm not going to pass up a 3.5 yr old 180-200 lb buck, heck at times a 165lb looks good ...lol ... I'm not as picky as I once was ..... on my old lease, I let bucks like those walk ..,.... if one has good private and acreage to do so, let them walk ..

From: drycreek
05-Jan-20
It is my opinion that you can’t “cull” a wild herd into a herd of better bucks. One reason, does carry half of the genetics and nobody can identify bad genes in a doe. Another is, if you’re in an area with inferior genes, then most of the deer will have them, so what’s the solution for that ?

Dr. James Kroll did a study on that several years ago. It involved the capture and radio collaring of a bunch of bucks at a very young age and following them for four years. I can’t remember all the details,(I’m sure it can be googled), but I do remember that he found that the first year spikes caught up with the first year forkhorns by the age of four. That said, I have practiced a little “culling” myself. I’ve killed an obviously three year old spike, and two sixes that had no brow tines simply because we had plenty of deer and they eat well. So if it makes you feel better, and you have plenty of deer, have at it, it’s not gonna change your herd dynamics for better or worse.

05-Jan-20
It’s my friends lease and he is trying to grow “trophy” deer- that would be 125” PY or bigger. In the 4 yrs they have had the lease only 1 buck has made that, though they have had several on trail cams. It’s 1500 acres timber company land they lease.

From: Jack Harris
05-Jan-20
In NJ I have seen 1.5 year old deer range from 1" spikes to 10 point bucks. It's all about genetics and what time of year it was born. Those born late do not have the time to do much more than spikes. Not all does are bred at the same time, in fact even in January, some are still being bred so you can pretty much be assured that a button born in late June 2020, will only be a spike the following year 2021. Those born in April, will most likely sport a little more headgear on their first set of antlers. Some bucks can reach P&Y 125" by age 3.5 around here, but generally need ages 4.5 to achieve that. I also see many cases where a buck can never amass that much bone no matter how old. There is no hard fast rule but for 1.5 year old bucks - think about when they were born the year prior as it is only their first set of antlers.

From: chillkill
06-Jan-20
If you want to grow trophy animals then you need to start a breeding program.As does contribute 50% of the genes you need to acquire some quality females say 6 and 1 good genetics male who will be turned every 3rd year for a better quality buck, you would in 5yrs have a solid nucleus of animals to start really influencing the area.Farmers can really influence deer quality when they pool together doing what i've alluded to.1 really good buck would probably cover his cost selling on the open market each year.Just a thought people, dont go getting your panties in a twist over this post.

From: Bow Crazy
06-Jan-20

Bow Crazy's Link
The first thing you should do is get an accurate age of the deer you are harvesting. Start saving jawbones and having them looked at or start pulling an incisor tooth and sending it in for analysis. You can learn to age them yourself by using the Jawbone Method - see link attached.

The size of deer antlers are determined by: genetics, nutrition and age. You have no control over genetics no matter what you do, so your culling of bucks will have no benefit to your deer. Instead, focus on nutrition and age. If I was in your shoes, I would start out this year focusing on nutrition. BC

From: Bow Crazy
06-Jan-20

Bow Crazy's Link
Part 2 - you can monitor the health of the deer on your property by collecting more data than just the age of the deer. Here is a link to what you should be doing and how to do it. It is a lot of fun. Get the kids involved, they will love it. See link. BC

From: JTV
06-Jan-20
all the above goes out the window when ones hunts public/state land ... smh .... also, if one dosnt have enough private property to do it on and all those around kill anything that walks ....

06-Jan-20
Good information. The Rut in central Arkansas is varied since it is far enough south, probably varied age of fawns and 1.5 year olds. He has put a lot into nutrition in 2019 so I think it will take a couple more years to see the benefit.

Since I don't live there and only come and hunt once a year not much I can do to influence anything. I just try to talk him into letting me shoot a younger age class buck that appears to have bad genetics! Its a lot easier to kill a 2.5-3.5 yr olds than a 4.5 year old spike or forky!

07-Jan-20

wildwilderness's embedded Photo
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
Same area as “grandpa” I killed a few years ago- same genes
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
Same area as “grandpa” I killed a few years ago- same genes
Here are some bucks that we are pretty sure will not improve. Does a deer regress - say an 8pt at 3.5 turns into a 6pt at 4.5?

Would you call these bucks culls? Any reason not to shoot them? (Multiple buck tags per year)

From: Bow Crazy
07-Jan-20

Bow Crazy's Link
Since you seem interested in genetics, here is a great place to start.

From: Bow Crazy
07-Jan-20

Bow Crazy's Link
Here is another good read on the topic of genetics.

From: Bow Crazy
07-Jan-20
If i were in your shoes, I would focus on two things: Age and Nutrition, you have no control over genetics. If you can, starting now in 2020 as soon as you can, have plenty for them to eat, as nutritious as possible. Starting this fall, get all your deer aged. You can learn to do it yourself by teeth wear, or send in a tooth and have it aged. Looking at photos is really just a guess, an educated guess but still a guess. Teeth analysis is too, but the science is better. BC

From: Bow Crazy
07-Jan-20
You asked, "Does a deer regress - say an 8pt at 3.5 turns into a 6pt at 4.5?" It can due to injury, disease or lack of food to name a few. "Would you call these bucks culls?" No, just because they have smaller antlers doesn't mean they are genetically inferior or they should be culled. "Any reason not to shoot them? (Multiple buck tags per year)" That is up to you and what you are trying to accomplish. BC

08-Jan-20

wildwilderness's embedded Photo
Another mature 6pt
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
Another mature 6pt
From reading those articles it seems like one should control what they can - nutrition and harvest of young bucks to increase the buck to doe ratio. That Genetics are pretty much out of any control in a wild population.

So hunt for age class bucks, and take does as well to keep the ratio.

From: chillkill
08-Jan-20
Yes i have read some of the links bow crazy put up and i did not take account of the restrictions you guys have to work with, so what i posted is wrong for your situation.You would need to fully fence in my situation and cull everything out and breed a new herd of animals to restock which your laws probably don't allow but is what we can do here.

From: Fuzzy
09-Jan-20
as stated above, get an age chart and learn to age. Also get an accurate scale. Keep records of age, antler length/mass (# of points is almost irrelevant) total weight and weight of a kidney with the fat attached and the same kidney fat removed. The % of kidney/kidney fat is the best indicator of "snapshot" (point in time when the deer was killed) feed availability for deer in the area. since It isn't affected by the age of the deer.

Unless you have full control of the harvest dynamics of at least 600 contiguous acres, management for age-class/trophy potential is almost futile.

What you CAN do is try and keep your buck/doe ratio in balance and try and keep the herd density in line with seasonally available food sources.

In order to do that last, unless your herd is well below the sustainable biological carrying capacity of the area, you'll need to remove the stigma associated with fawn harvest.

A fawn going into winter at about 7 months old will need to consume as much or more food than a 4.5 year old buck. They'll be feeding heavily on the highest quality food sources available, (to put on winter fat) at just the same time the mature bucks are feeding heavily on the same sources to recover the energy and body mass loss during the rut.

Reduce your fawn "load" especially the doe fawns, and the older bucks (the ones which grow them big ole antlers we all love) will have a better chance to survive the winter, and they will also have more testosterone in April due to being healthier and stronger. More "T" means more antler growth (all things else being in order)

From: Fuzzy
09-Jan-20
If you disbelieve the fawn thing, you've obviously never fed a houseful of 12 year olds. LOL

09-Jan-20
Interesting on the fawn harvest. That would also have less of an impact on the population than mature does.

The lease covers about 1500 acres so some measure of control over the harvest.

From: chillkill
10-Jan-20
Its old does you need to kill off, our experience that over 6 plus years they are not contributing to the herd and can be very detrimental as being big barren animals they can physically dominate feed areas.That leaves the younger fertile does lessor quality feed areas, so their fawns do not get the best start in life and will fore ever be playing catch up. Food is going to play a big part in developing trophy bucks so dont hold back killing does.

From: Castle Oak
10-Jan-20
Read and re-read the QDMA articles. They are spot on and chock full of correct information. I am a wildlife biologist with 37 years of experience so I kinda know a thing or two. I specialized in deer management on private lands for much of my career. Bow Crazy nailed it when he said to concentrate on nutrition and age. Thus, if you are planting or implementing other habitat improvements, be sure to take soil samples and follow them to the letter. Everything depends on soil nutrients so this is where you should start. While 1500 acres is a good sized property, you will still be influenced by what happens around you. Therefore, I always recommend that adjoining landowner/deer managers form a cooperative and work together to improve your deer herd. Contact your local DNR biologist and get their guidance. Don't listen to a bunch of hunters on an internet forum. I don't mean to slam hunters, but over the years I have heard more bad advice come from other hunters than from any other source. "My grandpa said that once a spike always a spike so we should shoot all spikes" -it's the worst advice I've ever heard. Also, and I'm not picking on you chillkill but the older the doe the better mom she is. She is the most successful breeder/nurturer in the herd and they do not become barren. I've looked at thousands of dead deer doing various types of research so I know of what I speak. Wild, hit me with any questions via PM. Good luck.

10-Jan-20
Man,other than a couple posts here I feel dumber for having read this thread.

And like Castle said, I've too heard more horrible bad advice from hunters themselves and it's quite amazing actually. Once a spike always a spike is my favorite too!! Somehow,, I've never seen a big bodied spike buck that is more than 1.5 years old. LOL

12-Jan-20
Is there a point where you can kill too many does? A thorough population study has not been done yet.

From: weekender21
12-Jan-20
You're not going to be able to kill your way to better a better antlered free range deer herd. Improve the quality of the habitat to the best of your ability and let the deer grow old.

From: Bow Crazy
14-Jan-20

Bow Crazy's Link
Since Castle talked about cooperatives, here is a link that will walk you through the entire process. It even includes examples of letters to use to send out to your neighbors. Of course, it's from QDMA. BC

From: Matte
14-Jan-20
Big deer are where you find them. I have a 600 acre plot with the best habitat a deer could want. CRP, plum thickets, Cedar wind breaks, 200 acres of hardwood forest a mile worth of river and three different grain crops. No matter what I have done, I have not influenced or have had the ability to grow larger Antlered Bucks and this is in Kansasand this is over two decades. Genetics of big bucks are where you find them. So I hunt elsewhere when I'm looking for a trophy.

From: weekender21
17-Jan-20

weekender21's Link
Genetic expression based on location is where you find them. Genetics don't significantly differ in whitetail from one area to another. The MSU deer lab has done some pretty amazing research over the last decade. Pretty cool stuff for anyone interested in the deer genetics discussion.

17-Jan-20

wildwilderness's embedded Photo
wildwilderness's embedded Photo
This is the buck my buddy killed this year. It’s a mature 8 point that goes 125”. So at least there is potential for that. There are a couple bigger on trail cameras as well.

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