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Ask The Biologist: Helping my deer herd?

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION: At the new place I began to hunt, I put out cameras and started feeding the deer. At first I had does and a lot of small game coming to my corn, and bucks soon followed.

Some of the deer have symmetrical antlers, but there is one I’m looking at that is different. His antlers are great on one side, but the other — not so much.

Is this a deer I need to take out because of bad genetics? I think it would make a neat mount! — Jeremy L., Bonifay, Fla.

Ask The Biologist

ANSWER: Let’s start with the easy answer first. If you think it would make a neat mount, I consider that ample justification for taking this bad boy down.

Now for genetics. As I mentioned to another inquiry earlier this month, it’s often difficult to tell what causes abnormal or non-typical antlers. Racks like the one in your photo are more common than you might think, especially in yearling bucks. However, they can also be genetic.

I once shot two adult bucks out of the same stand in Mississippi, each with one good side and one spike antler. The regional biologist told me it was not an uncommon trait in that region.

The deer in your photo indeed looks like an adult buck. Unless he’s incurred some sort of injury, it’s very possible his asymmetry is genetic.

If you feel so inclined, you can “take him out.” However, remember that hunters have little, if any, ability to influence the genetics of a free-ranging deer population. Even in closely confined and intensively managed populations, it’s extremely difficult. Even if you had total control over which bucks mated and which didn’t, at least 50 percent of the genetic material determining antler size, shape and configuration comes from the doe.

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