A study was recently concluded that produced a good bit of doubt on what was previously thought about managing deer for antler growth. This study was done in Texas and inside a high fenced, but the acreage was big. Although I truly don’t think one can compare free range to high fenced, I do think we all stand to learn something from this study. At the end of over a decade long study it was found that killing the eight points, spikes, and undesirable deer had no impact on antler growth whatsoever. Further this study was conducted in areas of protein feed, areas of no feed, and another area in between. It was also found that the buck that fathered the most games that grow into trophy class deer wasn’t at all a big buck. In fact, this buck that had super star buck fawns only scored 123 inches. That alone throws much of what has been believed out of the window. But I’m not writing this to mirror what someone else has already written, I’m writing this give my opinion on it.
I have always believed that trophy potential lies in nutrition rather than genetics in a free-range setting. Although it is easy to go and take out bucks that one finds undesirable there isn’t any way to know what kind of antler genetic doe carry. With that being said, the overall deer numbers have to be kept in check so that optimum nutrition is available for consumption. The only way to keep deer number where they need to be is to kill some of the deer. That leaves us all with a question, are we going to kill a certain number of deer each year regardless of what they look like? Or, are we going to kill X amount of doe and X number of bucks that we don’t think are ever going to amount to anything? Where I live you can’t really tell what a buck is going to be until he’s four years old. Thus, we try to make sure they are that old before we call them. We have no way of knowing if the doe we shoot is prone to have giant buck offspring so that makes things even more difficult. The bottom line is that deer need to be culled to keep numbers in check, this is especially true on large tracks of land. However, in light of more recent studies conducted we need be careful exactly how we do this culling. In my opinion, culling deer should be based on number control not antler size.