Ask The Biologist

Forever Six

Forever Six

By Bob Humphrey

A spike might not remain a spike, but what about mature bucks?

QUESTION: I have been hunting whitetails in Oklahoma for 35 years. For years, I have been running trail cameras and feeders on several acreages that we hunt. All of our bucks are recognizable from year to year, and most all of them tend to be 8-pointers with a few 10-pointers. Every once in awhile they might grow a kicker.

I had a heated debate recently over a big ol’ mature 6-pointer. My argument is that I believe that when a buck reaches maturity – and I have watched it grow year after year on camera so it is obvious which buck is which – that the 6-pointer will be a 6-pointer again next year, only gaining more mass and tine length.

That being said, how can anyone prove my logic wrong and try to tell me that next year he could be a 12-pointer or even an 8? –Jerry S.

ANSWER: Your logic is sound. It was once thought you could tell a buck’s age by the number of antler points. We now know that’s not the case. While most yearlings sport spikes or forked antlers, with very good nutrition and proper genetics a yearling could have six or even eight points. Conversely, some bucks may be genetically pre-disposed to only sport 8-point racks now matter how old they get. In some intensively managed herds, mature 8-pointers are culled in a (largely unsuccessful) effort to promote more antler points in the herd.

If you plotted the number of antler points for all bucks in a population over age 3.5, you would probably find the vast majority sport eight points, with fewer or more being the exception. And because genetic drift is so strong in free range herds, it is virtually impossible to change that.

Given that you can track individual deer in your area and know their age, it seems reasonable to assume that a mature six-point buck will probably continue to be a six-point buck, abnormal points notwithstanding. However, Mother Nature is a naughty child, forever breaking the rules so it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that the deer in question could produce more points in the future. It just seems unlikely.

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