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Do you think a buck is aware of the size of own rack?

DoubleRidge

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Fascinating stuff and great comments from everyone. My original question was poorly worded. Are bucks with bigger racks more difficult to kill because they have a proverbial price on their heads and they know it or is it just about maturity only?

I'll go with they are harder to kill because there are fewer of them....followed closely by they are fully mature and their behavior is different than other deer.......the same would apply for a 6½ year old 120" buck and a 6½ year old 160" buck.....both being true trophy's.... both being rare......but the 160" being more rare genetically speaking.
 
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fairchaser

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I'll go with they are harder to kill because there are fewer of them....followed closely by they are fully mature and their behavior is different than other deer.......the same would apply for a 6½ year old 120" buck and a 6½ year old 160" buck.....both being true trophy's.... both being rare......but the 160" being more rare genetically speaking.
If this is true and not saying it isn’t, the idea of having a price on your head would have no impact on a buck’s vulnerability. He’s mature and has escaped many hunters and has become adept at avoiding them.
But, if you have a large doe herd and suddenly start shooting them to balance things out, these same deer will become less and less available to hunters. After a few seasons, they will be as unavailable as a mature buck. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Nothing has changed except they now have a price on their head.
 

BSK

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fairchaser,

There is a theory held by some biologist that the truly large-racked bucks are so because they are not active breeders. Being very active in breeding drains away a lot of physical resources. This leaves a buck depleted going into winter and they spend the spring and early summer months rebuilding lost body resources, which takes resources away from antler growth. A buck not participating in the rut can make it into spring in fine shape hence can put all their resources into antler growth. Plenty of data exists showing some bucks never produce an offspring in their lifetimes, even at maturity, so the idea that some bucks aren't active breeders has merit. It has also been noted how the truly crazy-racked bucks never have any broken tines. Apparently, they aren't involved in fights. So if very large-antlered bucks are so because they're not active breeders, then they would certainly be harder to kill, as most mature bucks fall to hunters because they are chasing does and not being their normal careful selves.

But all that's just a theory. I like the idea, but to be honest, most of the largest antlered mature bucks I've killed were all chasing does when I killed them! So I don't know...
 

Snake

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Fascinating stuff and great comments from everyone. My original question was poorly worded. Are bucks with bigger racks more difficult to kill because they have a proverbial price on their heads and they know it or is it just about maturity only?
Oh I see because I was going to state the original question wasn't about buck superiority but do you think a buck is aware of the size of their own rack ? I was thinking we got off track ;)
 

Snake

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fairchaser,

There is a theory held by some biologist that the truly large-racked bucks are so because they are not active breeders. Being very active in breeding drains away a lot of physical resources. This leaves a buck depleted going into winter and they spend the spring and early summer months rebuilding lost body resources, which takes resources away from antler growth. A buck not participating in the rut can make it into spring in fine shape hence can put all their resources into antler growth. Plenty of data exists showing some bucks never produce an offspring in their lifetimes, even at maturity, so the idea that some bucks aren't active breeders has merit. It has also been noted how the truly crazy-racked bucks never have any broken tines. Apparently, they aren't involved in fights. So if very large-antlered bucks are so because they're not active breeders, then they would certainly be harder to kill, as most mature bucks fall to hunters because they are chasing does and not being their normal careful selves.

But all that's just a theory. I like the idea, but to be honest, most of the largest antlered mature bucks I've killed were all chasing does when I killed them! So I don't know...
I've heard this as well also I've heard that some of the really world class bucks being sterile. Anything to this?
 

Hunter 257W

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I don't think there is any way a buck is self aware that he has a 150" rack while his Summer buddy only has 110". In the 1st place, they don't have mirrors so can't ever see exactly what is on top of their own head to compare it to what other bucks have. Also they certainly aren't capable of comprehending the complexity of how we measure antlers or the value we place on them. I'd say they pay more attention to how big and aggressive other bucks are than anything else when it comes to comparing themselves against the competition.
 

BSK

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Now a buck certainly knows the dimensions of his antlers. He spent months growing those antlers when they were covered in VERY sensitive-to-the-touch velvet. He felt his velvet-covered antlers brush against everything around him, so he has a mental awareness of his antler size. That's why he can run full tilt through brush without getting entangled.

But do they know they have a big rack hence are in greater demand from human predators? No, they don't have that kind of comprehension.
 

larry ipock

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scott county Tn.
I saw a 3.5 year old with a crappy little basket rack twice this past season, 3 days and 700 yards apart, both times with a hot doe. First time he was trying to run off a yearling buck. Second time he snort wheezed and charged a 2.5 year old with a much bigger rack, and there was another 3.5 year old with a much bigger rack that didn’t even get close. He didn’t have much rack but he was the stud bull in that particular spot.

View attachment 65797


Hey! That ain't a crappy rack, killed one in 2010 that looks like your pics twin. LOL
 

tree_ghost

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If this is true and not saying it isn’t, the idea of having a price on your head would have no impact on a buck’s vulnerability. He’s mature and has escaped many hunters and has become adept at avoiding them.
But, if you have a large doe herd and suddenly start shooting them to balance things out, these same deer will become less and less available to hunters. After a few seasons, they will be as unavailable as a mature buck. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Nothing has changed except they now have a price on their head.
I would say that in most instances, yes, the larger racked buck will be harder to kill given both animals being compared are equal in age. If we’re speaking about two different age class bucks that are simply being compared based on rack size, for example a 2.5yo 130” buck vs. a 5.5yo 95” buck, then the older buck, the smaller racked one, will be harder to kill based on the fact that he has more than twice the experience staying alive through the hunting season when compared to the younger buck. By default this extra experience will cause the older buck to be more difficult to kill because he has lived through more hunter encounters and setups that educate him in his attempt at survival. However if high grading is not a factor in this hypothetical situation, and both bucks are the same age, only separated by antler size, then the larger racked buck would have more experience at staying alive because the hunters have placed a greater emphasis on killing this buck most of the time. Any property that is hunted, that has hunters who create a “hit list” or something similar, is going to place a higher emphasis on killing the animal with the better headgear every time based on my experience over the years. Because of increased pressure on this specific buck, the larger racked one, it would produce more experience with hunters setups and living through them and by default make this buck harder to kill.

If you had a huge place, few thousand acres, all to yourself and you could control the pressure on your bucks 100% then I would say that it would be individually based on a bucks personality.
 

jason2779

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I say to some point they do but also seen smaller bucks be aggressive, I think some of it is just like humans it can be genetics like being an alpha male he can be small in stature but mean as crap! But a good seat of head gear goes along way! I probably intimidating to other deer. Good question now I am like 🤔
 

JCDEERMAN

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I don't thinks they care if they have a big rack, they just know they are the big dog on the porch so don't mess with me.
Piggy-backing off this....I think of it like this - I used to wrestle in my younger years and was good at it. I had that aggressive, don’t mess with me attitude. However, there were a few guys that would walk out on the mat that had arms as big as my thighs. I remember 3 times specifically I was quite intimidated. I REALLY didn’t want to wrestle them. Nonetheless, we were “thrown in the ring” together. I pinned all 3 of those guys each in the first period. Their appearance was bold, but they lacked attitude, determination and a get to it attitude. I think each buck, really each deer in general, is just like us humans. Depends on our personality and our moods....and we are each individually particular about certain aspects of our daily life and we all react to things in a certain way.
 

JCDEERMAN

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That Miss State study that showed doe preference for larger antlered bucks is truly fascinating, and I great study. However, in the wild, many other factors come into play. One of the best "successful breeder" research projects I've ever seen was conducted on a large military reservation in Oklahoma. Every year for several years, researchers would go into the field at fawning time and live-capture newborn fawns and take blood samples. These samples were used to sequence each fawn's DNA. All deer harvested during special hunts on the property had DNA samples taken. Researchers would also comb the property every spring to collect every dropped antler they could find, also to extract DNA. What they were able to produce over time was a massive "family tree" for most of the deer using the property that would show which buck sired each fawn.

For me, the three findings from this massive research project that stuck out were: 1) Most bucks sire very few fawns each year. I think the average was only one per buck. Just a few bucks produced several offspring in a single year. I believe the top for any one buck was 6 offspring in a year and that was a statistical outlier. 2) Even when the buck age structural is "normal," with mature bucks present, bucks of all ages successfully breed; even yearling bucks. However, successful breedings are "skewed" towards the older age-classes. In essence, mature bucks produce more fawns per buck than young bucks do. 3) Because they had the dropped antlers of many of the bucks, they could look at antler size compared to successful reproductions. They found larger-antlered bucks for their age-class did not produce more offspring than smaller-antlered bucks of the same age. In fact, the top breeders were generally average to slightly below average for their age antler-wise.

Social dominance among bucks is driven by body weight and personal disposition. The bigger bodied, bad-attitude bucks end up being socially dominant.
Found a podcast on this discussing the DNA!

MSU folks discuss this - here is the link. Very informative and I think everyone would enjoy a listen.

 

Ski

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How could they not know? They spar around & size each other up for a reason, or several reasons. But there's no way coming out of it a big buck doesn't know he's big.

I was in stand watching several deer in the corner of a field. They were way out of bow range so all I could do is watch. There was one big guy, two young guys, and several does. A big male bobcat came strolling out amongst them, spooking almost all of them away, except for the big guy.He put his head to the ground, tines out, and charged that cat. He chased it into the woods and all the deer settled back down.

Doesn't seem all that significant but I've seen other bucks and does chase cats before, and they do it by charge stomping & bluffing. This buck used his horns. He knew what he had and knew how to use them. I've never seen a young buck do that. Heck, I've never seen any buck do that besides when fighting one another. But he did it. That means he was aware of his crown. Could he put an inches value on it? Of course not. But he knew he was top dog and executed that dominant role like a bull does with his cows & calves.
 

ROUGH COUNTRY HUNTER

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I hunted a 160s class buck during December. i hunted the trails and the thick cover that was full of acorns leading to where he was being caught on camera. he had a drop tine and I really wanted to kill him before he broke it off. i absolutely had no luck. I started asking myself how would he maneuver through this cover and I done the unthinkable and went into the openings and open woods in a hard wind and killed him, and I do know it was just the luck of the draw, but it gives me a new curiosity of big bucks travel routes
 
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