Antler Development

One question that always comes up is what makes one buck grow mediocre antlers while another produces a huge rack?

There are four factors that influence antler size. These are birth weight, nutrition, genetics and age, but there is no real agreement on which of these factors is the most important.

Dr. Dave Samuel

Birth weight is important because the healthier the male fawn, the healthier he will be as an adult. Nutrition is extremely important, and bucks that get a lot of high-quality forage will produce the best antlers.

Population size affects nutrition and antler size, because if you have too many deer in an area, the amount of good forage is decreased for all deer. This then will reduce antler size. Genetics also are important, but age is critical. If you don’t have bucks moving into the 4-1/2 to 6-1/2-year-old age groups, then you aren’t getting the big bucks that are possible for your area.

These are the kinds of issues we’ll cover in the future, so e-mail your deer questions to GuideOutdoors senior editor Tom Kacheroski at

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