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Mark Christianson

Lets talk about genes in deer.

51 posts in this topic

I have seen posts recently regarding peoples decisions about what buck to harvest, because of the poor genes that buck had.

Here is a pretty darn good read regarding genes.

I got this from the QDMA forums.

Notice the key in the information.... Age is the important factor. Taking small bucks because you feel you are going to help yourself down the road to shoot bigger bucks is not helping yourself at all.

Originally Posted by mod15

"I do not understand how passing a buck that is well below average in the antler department helps the deer herd in any way. I do understand letting a 1 1/2 year old go to see what he will do the next year but if still not good I don't see leaving him. I think genetics of just a few deer be it good or bad can change your deer a lot. If antler growth is not part of a quality deer herd what is. I mean if I want black cattle I will buy a black bull, if I want big deer I want a good buck with the does not a 5 year old 4 point buck. I may be wrong just my view."

Let me give you an example. First, if you are a cattle breeder, you don't breed your prize bull to just any cow. The cow too has to be a winner of certain heritage if you want to breed high quality calves. After all, the cow provide half of all the genes to every calf she has regardless of who the father is. So let's say you had a herd of 120 free ranging deer that ranged over 2,000 acres. Of that 2,000 acres, you owned and hunted 640 acres. Let's pretend your herd had 30 fawns, 30 bucks and 60 does. Of those 30 bucks, 2 were three year old spikes and they each had a twin sister. So that would mean you have 6 deer, 2 mamas, 2 daughters and 2 bucks with apparently bad genetics for antler development that will be passed on every time they breed. How is killing the two bucks going to get these bad genes out of the herd if the 4 does are passing them on to every fawn they have? Over 2,000 acres, and as hard as a 3.5 year old buck is to kill, if one of those bucks summers on your place and spends fall and winter on part of a 500 acre farm that has no hunting, how much impact are you having at improving the genetics if you harvest only one of the 3.5 yo spikes while the 4 does are bred and the other spike breeds 5 does with superior genetics?

The fact is that such efforts to effect antler development in a free ranging herd are futile and the science proves this to be so. Unless you can control who is breeding who, culling is a waste of time. Secondly, it is quite common for a buck not to begin fully expressing his potential antler development until he reaches 3.5 years old. If a buck fawn was a late born fawn, it is likely that his development as a yearling will be much below that of his same year that were born earlier. If as a 2.5 year old the is a drought or he suffers an injury, his 2.5 year devlopment may be hindered by his later maturity and the injury or environmental conditions. Only at 3.5 he is mature enough and healthy enough and suddenly, this buck begins to blossom. The most important factor was age not genetics.

It is almost impossible to judge a bucks genetic potential at 2 years old or younger unless you already know his lineage and the lineage of his mother. Even then, the most important factors in his antler development will be age, soil content, available food and his health. Managing genetics takes intensive efforts that a hunter with less than 3,000 acres of land and a free roaming deer herd can control enough to have any impact.

On the other side of the coin, you may have a buck that has the best genetics in your entire herd. His lineage goes back to every well bred doe and every monster buck that roamed your woods but this young buck got in a tangle with some barbed wire as a knothead and damaged both of his pedicles. As a result, he just grows two bone globs on his head each year and the globs just get bigger as each year passes but his rack is malformed and small so you cull him along with the best genes in the herd.

So many things can happen and the variables are so huge in a free roaming herd that there is no way to be able to control the breeding among the herd and it is not just the bucks that have to be managed when you are managing for antler development.

Lastly, QDM is not about managing for larger antlers. It is about allowing a herd to express it's potential for development by balancing the sex ratio, increasing the age structure, improving the habitat and improving the quality of available food sources. QDM is about bring the herd back to it's natural balance. It is the increased age structure that is most responsible for producing larger antlers under QDM. At 4.5 a buck will be substantially larger than at 1.5 or 2.5 years of age because of his maturity.

The question on what buck to harvest should be based on that buck's age not his antlers.

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That makes alot of sense to me. Never heard it put that way. As of next year I will not be shooting any more basket racks. I will pass this on to quite afew people. Thanks for the info.

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if people actually thought good genetics were only bucks, i don't know what i'd think! of course does contribute as well. more important than shooting or not shooting a young basket buck, is harvesting does. this makes the mature bucks compete for the ladies during rut, which in turn assures that an older, heavier racked buck, probably with better genes is doing a majority of the breeding.

if there are a lot of does to choose from, then a little fork can slip it to many does. thus, not doing any good to the quality of the herd. unless the fork has good genes.

the only down side to this is the buck you have been watching all summer long will go for miles looking for does if there are none around.

it takes time to build a good herd. if you don't have the land, then try convincing your neighbors as well. five years ago basket bucks were pretty common where i hunt. but our party, along with SOME of the neighbors, have quit shooting them, started taking more does, and now baskets are rare. I'm by no means bragging, but the average buck on camera and hanging from the rafters is in the 120" class or better.

Last year alone we harvested a 170", a 140" and a 135" on opening morning, a 1/4 mile apart from each other! If you want meat, shoot a doe, if you're after a trophy, then let that basket go. chances are he'll be there next year.

so far this year only one has been harvested, and he grossed over 185"

Baskets, despite what everyone tells ya, do grow up, and the proof is on our wall!

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SnS,

Why do you say here we go again?

There hasnt been any genetic type discussions. This is good factual info to share with people that might help them with future considerations. Thats it.

If people want to shoot small bucks for no other reason than to fill tags, thats their right. The post is intended to help people realize that there is a lot more to genetically trying to cleanse a herd than they think. And it looks like Andy learned something, exactly why I posted this. There are more Andys out there. smile

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Quote:
Last year alone we harvested a 170", a 140" and a 135" on opening morning, a 1/4 mile apart from each other! If you want meat, shoot a doe, if you're after a trophy, then let that basket go. chances are he'll be there next year.

so far this year only one has been harvested, and he grossed over 185"

Baskets, despite what everyone tells ya, do grow up, and the proof is on our wall!

I NEED you over here in our hunting party... We have, I don't know shot 1 good buck but that was on public across from our private land. The last 5 years, I would guess around 12 bucks of all kinds, spikes, forks, basket 8's and etc have been shot. I wish we had what you have, the others don't listen and see antlers, its down. Take a doe if you want meat, good answer. My brother told me a good theory, If he shoots a buck thats not big enough for the wall, the rack is just sitting in the garage in a pile with the other small ones and doing nothing with em.

You should get a pic of that 185" deer. I assume you have alot of food around you?

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ok this is the first buck ive ever shot i was going to pass it up...but when i seen this rack the gene thing came to mind this deer weighed 152 dressd and is probably a 2 yr old but tell me u would want this breeding does? i shot it to get it outta the woods i woulda passed it up being my brother seen a nice 8 and 12 on our other land but i didnt want want to drive 3 hrs and not see one of them what do u guys think about this one bad genes or what? i dont think he woulda amounted to anything

2scottbuck08.jpg

scottbuck08.jpg

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By the looks of it I would guess that to be a 1 1/2yr old...

think so? i was guessin at least 2 thats what everyone else in my party thought but we could be wrong what about the rack would he have amounted to anything?

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First of all congratulations on your buck. There is no way to know for sure if he would've turned out to be anything. That small antler could be the result of some sort of injury that he incurred during the velvet stage and might have came back normal next year, might not. He looks like your typical 1 and a half year old buck. I would say most bucks antlers are about that size at that age. Given time, most likely would have turned out to be a very nice buck(if that one antler came back normal next year)

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thats the last of the lil ones for me i just wanted to get that first buck under my belt but now im looking for a wall hanger dads got one that scored 149 5/8 on the wall and bro has a 140 on the wall now its my turn dads tag is still open so maybe ill get a look at that 8 or 12 my bro seen

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We hunt private land not too far from where biglakeba$$ hunts. It is land my grandfather taught us all to hunt deer on. It was always the goal to shoot a buck, no matter how small the antlers. The zone was divided into two weekends until recently. We hunted the first weekend with the neigboring landowner (7 people) and the person that farmed the land hunted second weekend (up to 5 people)...This is a very diverse property with large fields and heavy woods. The property is around 700 acres total. For years we all shot bucks but they were mostly basket rackers, spikes, forks, sporks, and an occasional nice buck. When the season went to a 9 day season we had exclusive use with the single neighbor hunter. We tried to shoot only respectable bucks (some had an easier time than others) and does and fawns. Some additional food plots were also added. I had a VERY hard time convincing the elders of our party we needed to pass on small bucks for them to get larger. Some still hit the dirt..But it wasn't 12 hitting the dirt..WE were the ones hurting our chances at big bucks. This was only three years ago. Last fall I shot my biggest buck ever. Last weekend two of my buddies shot the biggest bucks they have ever shot...Even the elders are mentioning how much bigger the racks are..Letting them grow DOES work...

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Read the post I made. The fact is that you cant judge a deers true potential until that 3.5 year old stage.

My guess is 1.5 years old on your deer too. I dont know how it could have been 152 lbs dressed. Maybe on the hoof it was 150. Just my opinion based on the pic.

I saw a 140 lb doe laying on the scale at our local registration station Sat evening, and I can say it was much larger looking.

My son shot a spike Saturday and it was 105 dressed.

If it truly was 152 lbs dressed, then I would surely think it would be 2.5 years old. But I just dont see it.

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100_1473.jpg

I am gauging this buck at 3.5 years old, he weighed exactly 170 lbs field dressed. He has good genetics even though he should have been a 10 pointer, but failed to grow that last point. He would have been a real bruiser next year. There are good genetics down here but a lot of the young bucks 2.5 years and younger can look gnarly and scrappy. I used to shoot those thinking that we had to get them out of the gene pool, I have since quit shooting those bucks and just let them grow. I saw another buck that looked like this one only much bigger, I would say he was 4.5 to 5.5 years old, and another one similar to this one.

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i agree with about every other thing that is being said up here. of course an older buck is goin to hav better chances at a nicer rack than a younger buck but there r gonna be 4.5 y/o bucks with nicer racks that 5.5 or 6.5 y/o just because of genetics. N i agree with the passing on smaller bucks, i began the quality deer managment plan 4 years back and have passed on over 100 small bucks in hopes of a bruiser one day, but if i ever saw a buck that i didnt think was up to snuff i would harvest it. theres the chance thats its from injury adn not genetics but i dont want to take that chance. also doe to buck ratio is an imporant factor. where i hunt i see probably 10 does and fawns to every buck. I also hunt in an intensive harvest area so im trying to bring that ratio down. With fewer does the big boys will get first pickings in the rut and that will leave less doe for the not so big of rack to breed. another thing was the argument that u can tell when a buck is carrying bad genes but not when a doe is. well thats a no brainer, u just gotta hope the doe has got the stuff. also if your harvesting does to get a better ratio one can figure its maybe 25% poor genes 50% normal genes and 25% big rack genes. so dont wory about getting rid of possible good genes when u harvest a doe. also food plots are essential becasue they provide nutrition, especially if your into the antler king stuff, and they keep deer on your property. an everage deer has a roaming area of 7 square miles. not every one has the back 2000 acres to hunt tho, but it doesnt mean you cant still hav success. in conlcusion, have foodplots to giv deer a reason to be on ur land, pass on small bucks and let them mature, and if your seeing quite a few does dont be afraid to harvest a few. this is just my 2 cents.

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Some good things what I've read here.

A little off, not from small to big, but Here is a 10 point buck that I have got pictures of winter 2006 and winter/spring 2007 (3 antler growths). He did not grow as much in the Jan 2007 pics but grew more in the Spring/Fall 2007 but lacked in his G4 on its right side, never got much mass on the antlers, there is not much food sources around our land but he got more width each year. I've seen this buck up close 15 feet away from the bay window at my cabin...he is wide, indeed!

January 2006

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January 2007

ICAM0025.jpg

ICAM0029.jpg

Spring of 2007

ICAM0046.jpg

ICAM0045.jpg

Fall of 2007

MDGC0002.jpg

MDGC0003.jpg

Age is your call...I think 3.5, 4.5, 5.5

I have seen this buck numerous times in the fields with a spotlight but only once deer hunting, never gave me a shot opportunity.

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Way over 3.5 for sure. I'd lean on that 5.5 years old. That last pic is just incredible. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But I will say those genes are screwy. He has hardly a G4 on the right antler. laugh

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Yeah I was stating 3.5, 4.5, 5.5 years old from each antler growth I posted.

Yeah I know the last picture just makes me go crazy! smile

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Quote:
It was always the goal to shoot a buck, no matter how small the antlers.

That's one of the more accurate statements I've read in regards to MN deerhunting. I'll go off-topic briefly here... I was brought into the hunting circle from my grandpa. A dedicated bowhunter from the old school who started off deerhunting when there weren't a lot of deer in the state. It was bucks only for awhile and for a year or two the season was closed all together. Heck if you even saw a deer from the stand... that was a big success. There was no QDM or craze for huge antlers. Any buck was a trophy. MN now has 1.2 million deer. Today, we have the choice to fill antlerless tags. My grandpa hasn't shot a doe in over 30 years but continues to send arrows at 1 1/2 year old bucks. It doesn't make a whole lot sense to me but that's the way it's been done for so long. My uncle is the same way.

Hunters today are a lot different. QDM - foodplots, harvest of does, passing of immature bucks, debates over age, nutrition, & genetics, etc. We know that age is the most important factor in growing large antlered bucks. Nutrition and genetics obviously play a part but age is key. Today hunters have a better understanding of what it takes to grow big deer and are more willing to execute them. Places where you get the old school guys (grandpa)hopping the fence with the new generation guys, some nice deer are being killed. What I'm trying to get at here is that over time, the old school philosophies of shooting the first buck that walks by are going to disappear and a newer management scheme that's been appearing all over the nation will be gradually implemented. However, we're already losing the battle with a decreasing amount of hunters. License sales are down considerably. I hope it's not the start of a trend.

We're here debating genetics but nothing is really brought into the conversation in that regards except for a cattle analogy. Let 'em go so they can grow" seems to be the consensus opinion, so I thought I'd throw in one of my viewpoints on the age/hunter equation and how it should start changing. The reason I stated here we go again... was just that. Debating on what to shoot... this thread has already turned into that and it was before my post! But I'm not complaining. I love whitetails and I enjoy talking about them, whatever that might encompass.

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I agree with you SNS, that shoot anything with horns philosophy is dying, but it will not happen over night, like it took years for the deer population to get sustainable for management, it will take years for the "new" way of thinking to take hold. There will still be a lot of immature bucks shot, but that will be because of the meet hunters that don't pass on anything, and I have absolutely no problem with that, but the old days of passing on a doe, to take anything with horns is going away, there are still people that do this, but there are less and less.

As for genetics. I do believe in this, I always have. You need to have a good genetic base to get large antlered deer, as well as a good food source and nutrient rich soil. YOu can't tell me that the deer eating corn and alfalfa arent going to have a better chance at getting a big rack than the ones nibbling on pine needles. Those racks get bigger, they lead to more dominant bucks, they in turn do a larger amount of breeding, and thus the better genetics get passed on. At any rate, no matter where the location, shooting a buck before it has a chance to truly develop will not allow you to even determine if the genetics are good or not. I think that almost all bucks will have the ability to become something with a nice rack if given the time to do so.

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I think that almost all bucks will have the ability to become something with a nice rack if given the time to do so.

Nothing truer could be said.

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Yes, I most certainly agree with you Quack. 3 1/2, 4 1/2, 5 1/2.

And browning24, not knocking your deer, but 1 1/2 for sure... who knows what hed become? Youll eat good this season anyway!:)

Good post biglake. Its rediculous to think you can alter the genes of a free range deer herd. Also I dont think anyone can assume what a deer is capable of becoming with letting time do its think. "Culling" a deer at 1 1/2 old is not a smart or effective way to produce better antlers, allowing them to age is!

Bucks antlers put on the most growth from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2, and 2 1/2 to 3 1/2, many will stall out after that.... but by then most are already at a very respectable size. Only a percentage grow large amount until 7 or 8 years. 3 1/2 seems to be that magic number where one can really see what that individual buck is capable of.

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Ya- personally i see a lot of possible potential in Browning24's deer. I also agree that is a 1.5 YO deer, and who knows what that could have grown up to be? In another 3 years that coulda been some big gross 170" with a double main beam and a 15" double brow tine on that side. makes me wonder what some of those big legendary whitetails looked like at 1.5?

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