Abstract

Title:  Long-term antler size trends in a free-ranging south Texas whitetailed deer population.
Author(s): DeYoung, C. A., and S. Lukefahr
Year: 1995
Abstract: Antler records that reflect the standing crop population are lacking in the white-tailed deer literature. Antler statistics are commonly taken from harvest samples which are biased by hunter selectivity and differential vulnerability of various classes of deer. We randomly sampled for 9 years a white-tailed deer population on the Faith Ranch in Dimmit County, Texas. The study area is native brush, not high-fenced, and has been harvested at a rate less than 5% per year. The ranch has produced in recent years bucks scoring up to 228 Boone and Crockett points (non-typical). We attempted to randomly sample bucb in the population by live-capturing them using a helicopter and drive net or net gun. Helicopter pilots were instructed to capture the first buck sighted, regardless of size. Approximately 49 bucks were caught per year fiom 1986-1994 (range = 46-51). Captured bucks were measured, aged by tooth replacement and wear, and released at the capture site. Antler points greater than or equal to 1 inch averaged 8.09 (range 2-18) for the total sample and varied between 7.88 and 8.64 over the years. Mean points by age class varied from 3.99 for 1.5 year-old deer to 9.63 for 6.5 year-olds. Antler points did not differ among age classes 5.5 years and older > 0.47). Inside antler spread averaged 15.00 inches (range 0-31.5) for the total sample. Mean spread varied by age class from 7.14 inches for 1.5 year-olds to 18.95 inches for bucks 8.5 years and older. Spread did not differ among age classes 5.5 and older (11 > 0.06). Effect of year on antler points and spread was not significant (P > .lo). Antler left main beam length averaged 17.82 inches (range 2.00-26.25) for the total sample and varied from 17.83-19.12 over the years. Left beam varied by age class from 8.53 inches for 1.5 year-olds to 21.54 inches for bucks 8.5 years and older. Similar to the other measurements, left beam did not differ among age classes 5.5 years and older (P > 0.57). The year effect was significant for left beam length (P = 0.02). Mean gross Boone and Crockett (B&C) score was 106.61 for the total sample with yearly variation of 106.81 to 116.67. Gross B&C score varied among age classes from 38.26 for 1.5 year-old bucks to 135.87 for 6.5 year-olds. Year significantly affected B&C score (11 = 0.01). Once again, B&C score stabilized at 5.5 years and did not differ thereafter (11 > 0.70). Although the Faith Ranch appears to be a good quality population for south Texas conditions, many mature bucks had poor B&C scores. These data provide managers with base line information about antler development in a free-ranging population with a welldeveloped buck age structure. Similar data are not available from conventional harvested samples because of substantial bias.

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