Juvenile-to-Adult Antler Development in White-Tailed Deer in South Texas




Abstract: Past studies using penned deer provide conflicting results on the age when reliable predictions about antler growth potential in white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) can be made. We captured wild whitetail males via aerial net gun on 12 ranches in 5 counties in south Texas, USA, from 1999 to 2007 to determine if a reliable juvenile-to-adult relationship in antler development existed. We individually marked and released captured animals at the trap site after we took antler and body measurements. We recaptured marked animals as possible in subsequent years or until we obtained final measurements after legal harvest. Amount of growth in the first set of antlers in whitetail males was a poor predictor of antler growth at maturity. By 4.5 years of age there were no differences (P > 0.05) in antler measurements regardless of the amount of development of the first set of antlers at 1.5 years. We concluded culling of yearling males based on number of antler points would have little positive effect on overall antler quality in future years.