Ask The Biologist

Weak Side

Weak Side

By Bob Humphrey

Antlers can be affected by both genetics and nutrition. It’s just tough to figure out which.

QUESTION: This is my first year hunting a new property and I am seeing bucks with their left side weaker than the right, or the left side is broke up. Is this genetic or lack of protein or minerals?

ANSWER: It could be either or both. Yearling bucks especially might show uneven antler growth. Rather than a lack of nutrition, it could be that there’s enough nutrition to support a little extra growth on one side, but which side experiences more or less growth would be random.

If you’re seeing it in multiple bucks, especially adults, and only on the left side, it is possible genetics are a contributing factor. However, females contribute at least as much as males to antler genetics, and in a healthy, free-range herd the genetics for a specific antler trait would be highly diluted. A higher-than-normal rate of antler breakage could be due to lack of nutrition, higher intraspecific aggression or both.

Again, if it’s only on the left side, genetics may be a contributing factor.

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