October Deer Management
The Transition Phase and Pre Primary Breeding/Scraping Phase
From early to mid October the buck groups should be breaking up. Rubs and scrapes may diminish in some areas as the bucks disperse and move to fall home ranges and establish dominance and breeding ranges. By mid October the deer usually shift from summer home ranges to fall home ranges. Scout frequently to find out where the bucks have gone, and where the deer are feeding.
From mid October to early November the bucks will begin peak scraping near nighttime food sources, and in travel corridors. Some of the does may come into estrus at this time, especially in the southern states. Scout to locate buck rub routes and feeding areas, then back track rub routes to locate buck core areas and bedding sites so you can choose stand sites This is one of the best times of the year to pattern and hunt a buck, because they are following their rub routes making rubs and scrapes on a semi-regular basis. Scout to locate doe core areas and feeding sites, so you know where to find the does, and the bucks, during the rut. Choose stand sites for hunting the rut.
For a number of years deer experts believed that spike yearling bucks possessed inferior genetics and would never produce respectable, or trophy racks. Because of this belief game managers and hunters alike promoted the idea of culling the spikes from the herd to improve overall genetics. The feeling now is that many spikes may be late born fawns that just don’t have time to produce larger racks their first year. A buck’s rack doesn’t keep growing until it reaches a certain size and then stop; it grows until lengthening daylight hours increase hormone levels causing the rack to stop growing and harden. Because the rise in hormone level stops the growth of the rack at about the same time in most bucks, those that were born a month or so later have less rack growth their first year. During their second year late born bucks have the same growing time as other bucks, and may produce normal sized racks.
In one study, when bucks were given supplemental feed and minerals, most of the bucks produced four to ten point racks their first year. There was also one buck in the study with a spike rack. With continued supplemental feeding and mineral all the bucks produced bigger racks each year, including the spike. In fact, during the fourth year, the spike produced the largest rack of all. This suggests that the only way to find out what kind of a rack the buck will produce, is to let it grow until it is 4-7 years old.
I recently had a conversation with a deer breeder who is producing Boone and Crockett racks on 2-3 year old bucks. He tells me this is possible because they carefully select fast growing bucks with good antler genetics, and breed them to does with good antler genetics. The animals are provided with minerals and receive supplemental feed throughout the year. He says that producing bucks of this quality is difficult with wild deer because they donâ€™t receive the same nutrition, and itâ€™s hard to keep track of genetics.
I also asked the breeder whether he thought the high wide 8 point bucks on my property would ever grow 10 point racks. I had suspected for years that these older 8 point bucks would never grow a 10 point rack. He confirmed my suspicions and said that, in his experience, older 8 point bucks rarely produce 10 point racks. I also asked deer biologist Dr. Ben Koerth the same question, because he has extensively studied antler genetics. He told me that he has seen two and a half year old 8 point bucks grow 10 point racks during their third year. But, he added that if a buck doesn’t grow a 10 point rack by the time it is three years old, it probably never will.
As a result of these conversations I have decided to take out all the four and a half year old and older bucks on my property that donâ€™t grow 10 point or better racks, in an effort to increase trophy quality. I know that not all areas produce 10 point or better racks, but, if you want the deer in your area to produce large racks, and you see older bucks with racks smaller than the average in your area, you may want to take them out, so they donâ€™t contribute to the genetic pool.
An easy way to improve genetics is to harvest older class does. The faster the turnover of females, the faster genetics can improve. A buck gets half itâ€™s genetics from itâ€™s mother, so if older does are continuing to produce fawns, the same genetics (which may be inferior) are passed on. In a herd with the right age structure, 50 to 60 percent of the does taken each year should be 2 1/2 or younger. This will produce a doe herd with an average age of 2 1/2 to 3/12 years, which will cause the entire doe herd, and the genetics, to turnover in about 3 1/2 years. When you turnover the doe herd, and protect the better bucks, genetics will change quickly.
This article is adapted from T.R. Michels’ Deer Managers Manual ($9.95), and from the Complete Whitetail Addict’s Manual ($40). Can be found at http://www.TRMichels.com.
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