Title:  Effects of supplemental feed and density on white-tailed deer antler growth
Author(s): Kent M. Williamson, David G. Hewitt, Timothy E. Fulbright, Charles A. DeYoung, Robin N. Donohue, Kim Echols, Matthew T. Moore, Don A. Draeger
Year: 2010
Abstract: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) antler size is affected by nutrition, which may be influenced by supplemental feed and deer-density. We investigated supplemental feed and density effects on antler growth using 2 study-sites, each with 6 200-acre enclosures; 3 enclosures had ad libitum supplemental feed. Target populations of 10, 25, and 40 deer were maintained for both feed treatments. Males were captured, aged, and given unique ear-tags. Number of antler points (>1 inch) was recorded for yearling deer from photos or during capture. Gross Boone and Crockett (B&C) antler score of 5+ year-old (mature) males were estimated from photos or measured during capture. Estimates were converted using a regression equation (r2=0.90) derived from the relationship between estimated and known scores. Yearling males were more likely (P=0.02) to be spike-antlered (19 of 20; 95%) in unsupplemented enclosures than in supplemented enclosures (18 of 44; 41%). Effect of density on antler score of mature males depended on supplemental treatment (P=0.001). Gross B&C score of unsupplemented mature males (n=38) decreased (P<0.001) 1.16 (0.53-1.79) inches for each additional deer in unsupplemented enclosures. Gross B&C antler score of supplemented mature males (n=32) was not affected by density (P=0.48). B&C antler score of unsupplemented mature (n=38) males averaged 116 inches (SD=17), while score of fed (n=32) deer averaged 131 inches (SD=18). Supplemental feeding reduced density imposed constraints on mature buck antler size within the range of densities we tested and decreased the probability of spike-antlered yearlings.

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