When Is Big — Big?

Josh B. from South Carolina writes to ask about age and antlers in deer. "At what age to bucks reach their maximum antler size?" he asks.

Dr. Dave Samuel

Good question Josh, and the answer is either 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 years of age. New research shows that at 2-1/2 years of age, bucks have reached only 60 percent of their total antler potential. At 3-1/2, they have 80 percent of the antlers they will have when fully developed; at 4-1/2 they have 92 percent, and at 5-1/2 they are at 100 percent of their maximum antler potential.

What this means is that if you shoot a 3-1/2-year-old buck that scores 124 inches, that buck would have scored 156 inches had you passed him up and shot him at age 5-1/2! 

This is just an example to show what passing up a buck might do. In order to manage bucks in this way, you obviously need to be able to age that deer in the wild. And yes, there are places that actually pass up bucks until they are 5-1/2. That is most commonly done in Texas.

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Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for sportsmansguide.com. If you have a question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of www.sportsmansguide.com‘s content at tkachero@sportsmansguide.com. Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for over 31 years.

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