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Are irregular racks caused by genes or an injury?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: I shot a 24-point buck with my bow a few years ago. The rack is fairly symmetrical. The body weight is only about 100 pounds, about the size of a medium-size doe. Is this just a fluke, or could there be some good non-typical genes on the farm that I hunt?
— Jack

Photo courtesy of Hadley Creek Outfitters

ANSWER: That’s really tough to say for sure without more information. I should probably come down next bow season and hunt with you to find out for sure. Meanwhile, I’ll do what I can based on your pictures.

Let’s start with body weight. It’s difficult to draw too many conclusions without knowing where the deer was killed. If you’re from the northeast, 100 pounds dressed weight would be about right for a doe or a yearling buck, but a little light for an older buck, which this appears to be. Anything much south of Virginia, and it could be within the range of an older buck, depending on habitat. Bear in mind, southerners have a habit of weighing deer round rather than dressed, which adds about 40 percent. Obviously, the buck was taken early in the fall, so you’d expect him to weigh a little less than he might in November.

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Now for the rack. There are numerous causes for non-typical antlers. Again, it’s hard to say for sure, but yours is very suggestive of genetics, unless it’s a very old buck, which it does not appear to be. If it is genetics, there’s certainly a chance those genes are still in the population. However, there’s at least a 50 percent chance he got those non-typical genes from his mother.

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