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The 2020 antler conundrum

backyardtndeer

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Joined
Jul 29, 2015
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1,925
Right opposite here. Small tract I passed no less than 20 different bucks last year and after season had a couple 3.5 year olds I know made it through. Have not seen anything special this season.
 

Lost Lake

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Supporter
Joined
Nov 17, 2012
Messages
2,700
Location
Middle Tn
Our property was timbered five years ago. Even though it’s not far from some heavily hammered TVA property, I’ve seen a steady increase in bigger antlers and especially bigger body weights ever since. This year especially.

The cover and browse is incredible.
 
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recurve60#

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Joined
Oct 22, 2008
Messages
1,257
Location
Rock Island
Im still going with rainfall. Decent mast last fall and rainfall all this year kept the foliage lush and nutritious. Drought conditions would have not allowed great antler growth.
 

AlabamaSwamper

Active Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2004
Messages
5,345
Location
Southern Wayne CO and NW Alabama
BSK

I haven’t noticed antler jumps but the last three years we’ve had a huge drop in weights across age classes. I’ve attributed it to total acorn failures in 2018/19

they are back up this year about 50% of what they fell. We finally had a decent acorn crop.
 

BSK

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Joined
Mar 11, 1999
Messages
68,124
Location
Nashville, TN
As many have correctly pointed out, improving herd population, sex ratio, and buck age structure WILL improve many aspects of individual deer performance, including buck antler growth. I've been preaching that for decades and still believe in it because I've seen it happen first hand. However, those changes occur over time. They are not rapid. As Mega pointed out, to get maximum benefit, you have to start with a deer's health through their mother's health before they are born. Then that healthy fawn has to reach maturity. And as the latest research into epigenetics is strongly suggesting, it can take several generations of "better conditions" to produce maximum results. What I am seeing this year is a sudden single year jump in antler growth.

In addition, on the properties I'm monitoring, and the properties other managers are telling me about, years of detailed herd data is available. None of the properties experiencing this sudden jump in antler quality have experienced any major change in sex ratio or buck age structure in years. Other than some fluctuations in population density over the last 5-7 years, sex ratio and buck age structure are unchanged.

I believe Woodsman04's post is on target. I think we're seeing the results of a combination of environmental factors that don't come around very often. But I sure would like to know exactly all of those factors.
 

BSK

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Joined
Mar 11, 1999
Messages
68,124
Location
Nashville, TN
BSK

I haven’t noticed antler jumps but the last three years we’ve had a huge drop in weights across age classes. I’ve attributed it to total acorn failures in 2018/19

they are back up this year about 50% of what they fell. We finally had a decent acorn crop.
That's fascinating info AlabamaSwamper.
 

AlabamaSwamper

Active Member
Joined
Jun 3, 2004
Messages
5,345
Location
Southern Wayne CO and NW Alabama
I’m thinking some of this may also be due to us backing off does but that’s changing as we speak. But literally weights were down 25% last year across age classes of bucks. They have came back up some but acorn failure and possibly more does and our usual large fawn crops I’m guessing was the issue. My plots didn’t change, if anything they are better and not demolishedbut what deer was there. We have way too many big older does that seem to hoard the best food and s as usual the salt licks in the summer. I still after all these years get very few pictures of older bucks on salt.

Was a little disturbing to be honest.
 

DeerCamp

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Jul 28, 2020
Messages
629
I’m thinking some of this may also be due to us backing off does but that’s changing as we speak. But literally weights were down 25% last year across age classes of bucks. They have came back up some but acorn failure and possibly more does and our usual large fawn crops I’m guessing was the issue. My plots didn’t change, if anything they are better and not demolishedbut what deer was there. We have way too many big older does that seem to hoard the best food and s as usual the salt licks in the summer. I still after all these years get very few pictures of older bucks on salt.

Was a little disturbing to be honest.
I would assume this factor would also largely dependent on how much agriculture you have in your area for the deer to fall back on when acorn crops aren't good.

Probably a lot less in east Tennessee.
 

Popcorn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2019
Messages
390
Location
Cookeville, TN Cadiz, KY and random other places
2 buck limit may be a big factor. Look at Kentucky. They are becoming a whitetail destination. We see this in places like FT C. They have had a 1 buck limit since the early 90s. I think the buck to doe ratio is better. And as someone mentioned above, maybe these products do work. I’m not a fan of baiting but it works for them.
Not to argue but I manage a large farm in western KY and as a Tennessee native that was jealous of bating states I have discovered that it aint all that its made out to be. We run 12 feeding sites and 24 camera sites that get moved around to some degree and 80 acres of plots with close to 300 acres of row crop. We have bucks that avoid feeders, we have bucks that avoid camera sites. I have been trying to pin down 3 old and declining bucks all year and they will not be patterned. Our best bucks walking are only on camera at night and only get seen in daylight at a distance. Our best bucks harvested are mostly not taken where we thought they would be. Being from the Cumberland plateau I sometimes think this place would be better to hunt with out the feeders and fewer food plot acres.
 

Popcorn

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 30, 2019
Messages
390
Location
Cookeville, TN Cadiz, KY and random other places
As many have correctly pointed out, improving herd population, sex ratio, and buck age structure WILL improve many aspects of individual deer performance, including buck antler growth. I've been preaching that for decades and still believe in it because I've seen it happen first hand. However, those changes occur over time. They are not rapid. As Mega pointed out, to get maximum benefit, you have to start with a deer's health through their mother's health before they are born. Then that healthy fawn has to reach maturity. And as the latest research into epigenetics is strongly suggesting, it can take several generations of "better conditions" to produce maximum results. What I am seeing this year is a sudden single year jump in antler growth.

In addition, on the properties I'm monitoring, and the properties other managers are telling me about, years of detailed herd data is available. None of the properties experiencing this sudden jump in antler quality have experienced any major change in sex ratio or buck age structure in years. Other than some fluctuations in population density over the last 5-7 years, sex ratio and buck age structure are unchanged.

I believe Woodsman04's post is on target. I think we're seeing the results of a combination of environmental factors that don't come around very often. But I sure would like to know exactly all of those factors.
I am really glad you are having this discussion. We have been discussing a similar situation here in Western KY. We had attributed the antler improvements made by all bucks to the combination of our soil improvements and plot management for maximum food value and cover along with providing sanctuary acres and letting 3 year olds walk. I have been improving at a steady pace for 7 years. Since none of our neighbors manage, they just kill, we had created a doe sink. we were feeding a lot of non-resident deer. 2019 we took 92 doe and 8 bucks from 1600 acres in an effort to lower the browse line and give row crops and food plots a chance to develop. This year we still have a very good population but the browse line is improving and the crops all did much better our ratio is much better but we clearly have more bucks, heavier deer (mature does harvested in the 140 pound area) and clearly are having an exceptional antler year with some really nice 2 yo's exceptional 3's and a couple 4's that are easily farm best ever bucks. One of the drawbacks is the neighbors are killing those big 3's. I had not imagined we might not keep the antler advances of 2020.
 

BSK

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Joined
Mar 11, 1999
Messages
68,124
Location
Nashville, TN
Popcorn,

Now that kind of DRAMATIC change in herd dynamics (92 does in one year!) can easily cause a single year jump in body and antler production!
 

TNRidgeRider

Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2020
Messages
52
Location
Lawrence
Popcorn,

Now that kind of DRAMATIC change in herd dynamics (92 does in one year!) can easily cause a single year jump in body and antler production!
I can attest to this on an even smaller scale. In 2009, we had very few mature bucks. An elderly lady who liked deer meat killed 9 does. And the other landowners in the area all harvested 2 or 3 does that year. On our small farm we seen improvement in 2010 and an even more significant improvement in 2011. This is probably a 1000 acre area.
 

catman529

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Joined
Nov 10, 2010
Messages
28,815
Location
Franklin TN
I’ve seen less than average antler size in my backyard this year, but have seen some really nice young bucks on other areas across middle TN. Glad to see you back here BSK
 

megalomaniac

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Joined
Oct 28, 2005
Messages
9,385
Location
Mississippi
... I sometimes think this place would be better to hunt with out the feeders and fewer food plot acres.
Deer usually feed 4-5x per day. They aren't stupid and quickly pattern hunters sitting on plots and feeders. They just simply use those feeders and plots for 2 major feeding times (AT NIGHT). Because they can get so many calories at night, they don't need to feed as much during the day.

I've found the best chance to kill deer on properties that bait is to set up between the bedding areas and feed areas in the afternoons and hope they make it out of the thick stuff and into the transition cover before dark.

The only time feeders/baiting give hunters an advantage is during very early bow season (early Sept) when deer are unpressured and patternable or very late season when they are extremely hungry. Otherwise, you are actually making your deer even more nocturnal.
 

Ski

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2019
Messages
430
Location
Coffee County
Deer usually feed 4-5x per day. They aren't stupid and quickly pattern hunters sitting on plots and feeders. They just simply use those feeders and plots for 2 major feeding times (AT NIGHT). Because they can get so many calories at night, they don't need to feed as much during the day.

I've found the best chance to kill deer on properties that bait is to set up between the bedding areas and feed areas in the afternoons and hope they make it out of the thick stuff and into the transition cover before dark.

The only time feeders/baiting give hunters an advantage is during very early bow season (early Sept) when deer are unpressured and patternable or very late season when they are extremely hungry. Otherwise, you are actually making your deer even more nocturnal.

I've learned that having a plot is not as important as where the plot is located, for the exact reasons you describe. I actually plant fruit & nut trees, berry bushes, etc. at points between bedding and plots. They browse their way to evening food anyway, so this gives them a few predictable places to stop in daylight before reaching the plot at or after dark. Also allows me to effectively hunt them without ever having to be anywhere near the plot.

The little things often make the biggest difference. My wife got her drop tine buck this season from a stand I hung in July and had never hunted. She sat less than 2hrs on the 7th of November and he came through right where he was supposed to.
 

Ski

Active Member
Joined
Nov 18, 2019
Messages
430
Location
Coffee County
I always find the small-detail "art" of habitat management fascinating. In essence, how land managers arrange the minor details of their habitat plans that often turn out to be the critical aspects to harvest success.

Took me a long time to figure that out. And when I did it revealed a whole lot more that I have yet to learn. Every time I think I know something, in hindsight I find out how wrong I was.
 

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