Ask The Biologist

Where’s the Bone?

Where’s the Bone?

By Bob Humphrey

It can be frustrating when bucks don’t grow the size antlers you think they should.

QUESTION: I have several cameras out and have been watching the deer in my vicinity for several seasons. They just don’t seem to be growing the type of antlers I think they should. Do you think I should put out some minerals for them? What kind would you recommend? — Rich S.

ANSWER: Before I recommend a solution, it would be helpful to identify the cause of the problem. I assume you mean your deer are not growing the size of antlers you seek. There could be several reasons for that and, as you probably know, there are three principle factors affecting antler growth.

One is age. If there’s heavy hunting pressure in the area, particularly on bucks, they might simply not be reaching maturity and therefore are unable to realize their antler growth potential.

Another is genetics. If the deer in your area are not genetically pre-disposed to grow big antlers, they never will. And there’s nothing you can do about genetics in a free-range deer herd. Fortunately, that also means a fair amount of genetic drift, and that it’s highly unlikely genetics would be the reason for poor antler growth. There is just too much genetic variability in the population.

That leaves nutrition. It all begins with the soil, and if yours is poor, that could translate to diminished antler growth. Biologists have documented better antler growth in areas of richer soils. From that you would assume putting out minerals would help, yet there is no hard evidence linking mineral supplements with improved antler growth. They might work, but you’re probably better off improving the quality and quantity of plant foods, which might require adding minerals to the soil.

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Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd