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Grant's Blog

Thoughts from the field

What genetic factors contribute to bigger antlers on whitetail bucks?

I’ve read that when it comes to producing “big” bucks, the mother (doe) is responsible for most of the good genetics.  Is there any truth to this?  If so, should we allow some does that we know may have produced a big buck to walk? Also, I find it hard to kill a doe that produced twins or triplets.  Do all does have the ability to birth twins and/or triplets or is that based on the animal’s environment and food?

Thank you,

Justin

Justin,

Researchers believe that does contribute more to the genetic potential of a buck’s antlers than the sire.  However, no matter how good the genetic potential is, the age structure and quality of the habitat determine how much of a buck’s antler potential can be expressed.  That’s why I never worry about a buck’s genetic potential unless the habitat is fabulous.  I don’t believe it’s practical to select which doe produces better bucks in a wild, free-ranging situation.  A buck’s potential is usually not known until he is 4.5 years old or older.  It’s very tough to know which doe produced a buck 4.5 years later.

It is very common for does in good habitat to have twins or triplets.  If the adult sex ratio is not managed to be balanced, then it is unlikely that a buck will express his full antler development potential.  Likewise, it is very important to ensure there is plenty of quality food for each deer in the population by harvesting enough does to balance the habitat’s capacity to produce quality food with the number of deer in the area.

Given the above, I suggest harvesting enough does to meet the management objectives for that property.  I harvest the first doe I can legally and don’t stop until the prescribed doe harvest quota is met – independent of the doe’s age, number of fawns, etc.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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