Do spike bucks have inferior genetics? Will culling them improve the quality of your deer population? Should you shoot spikes? The buck stops here.
By Jeff Johnston
Most of us have heard that a yearling buck—a male buck being 1.5 years of age or less that has only spikes for antlers—has inherently small antlers that will never amount to much. So, says the theory, you should harvest them so other branch-antlered yearlings can utilize the nutritional resources, and so the spike bucks do not reproduce and pass on those small genetics.
In a nutshell, the study found the following:
6 Points to Ponder
-“Fork-antlered deer produced almost twice the antler mass each year as their spike-antlered counterpart.” (Ott study)
-Yearlings that had 6 points or more grew bigger antlers with each year of age than yearlings that had 4 or 5 points, which were bigger than yearlings with 3 points, which grew bigger antlers than spike deer.
-Therefore, the bigger the yearling, the bigger its ultimate potential.
-Given enough time, spikes will grow branched antlers, and after 4.5 years spikes can become decent bucks, but they will never be as big as a branch antlered yearlings if all else is equal.
-In the study, the average Gross B&C score of adult deer that were fork-antlered yearlings was 127.8 B&C inches while the spike deer averaged 89.9 B&C at maturity.
-A branch antler yearling at 3.5 years of age will have antlers as big or bigger than a spike buck at 4.5 years age,” wrote John D. Williams, Ph.D., Associate Professor Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University.
The Pro’s Opinion
"That does not mean he [would never] be a good deer, but to let him grow for two more years to find out does not make any sense to us as a management practice. We are playing a numbers game,” Fredericks said. "We cull all deer with 8 points or less at 3 years old or spikes and 2 year old fork and horn bucks. But we are most definitely in a controlled environment and have taken our average trophy from 130 inches to 180 inches in the last 5 years with this aggressive management practice."
The Simple Answer
The Rack Reality
It would be more sensible to shoot does so there is a better balance and more available nutrition for the remaining deer, and let that spike walk. He might not grow up to a B&C giant, but after 3 or 4 years he could be respectable. He definitely will not if he is killed early.
“Too many deer is a bad thing,” said Fredericks. “Most hunters don't want to shoot does but they are just as important as bucks so you need to manage them the same way. Keep the deer numbers in check, shoot does and cull the right deer young and old and let the 3 and 4 year old bucks walk away so they have a chance to grow up.
The Real Answer
The Lopsided Buck Bonus Question
The Bonus Buck Answer