QUESTION: Bob, is there any truth to the old saying, "Once an 8-pointer, always an 8-pointer?"
I've read a few articles on this, but I wanted to go straight to the source. Also, I've read that if a young buck does not have brow tines, it never will. - Eric W.
ANSWER: Like most things in nature, antler potential is seldom cut-and-dried. It's difficult, if not impossible to determine the antler potential of a yearling buck. That's why the practice of culling yearling spikes has largely died out.
In many cases, a yearling spike might simply be a late-born fawn. Perhaps it was conceived during the second rut, or during abnormally severe environmental conditions such as drought or poor nutritional conditions.
Give this buck a year or two and it might catch up to, or even exceed its peers in antler growth.
Much the same can be said for larger-racked yearlings.
A four-pointer or even a six-pointer with no brow tines could still someday sport a trophy rack.
As deer get to be 2 1/2 and 3 1/2, their individual antler traits become more pronounced and consistent. Even then there are no certainties.
A 2-year-old eight-pointer could become a 3-year-old 10-pointer, and a 3-year-old 10-pointer could become a 4-year-old 12-pointer, though the probability of growing additional typical points diminishes with age.
However, age and injury can result in more non-typical points.
As for the "once-an-8-pointer" adage, the odds are certainly in favor of it.
There are some folks who consider an 8-point rack (three evenly-matched upright tines on each beam) to be the only true typical, and symmetrical racks of 10 or more tines to be somewhat non-typical.
Percentages seem to bear that out as the overwhelming majority of mature bucks, in the absence of intense management, will sport eight points. But that's not always the case.
Even in the absence of management and culling, deer in a particular area might be genetically predisposed to produce racks of more than eight points, if allowed to reach sufficient age.
But the odds are against it, and I would advise caution if your management objective is bucks with ten points or more. You're going to burn through a lot of eights with tremendous antler potential trying to get there.