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Whitetail Sheds

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"QUESTION(s): I recently started looking for whitetail sheds in Pa. I found a beautiful half rack with 4 points. The rack was rather large, the main beam measured 17 inches, the tines ranged from 5 inches to 11 3/4 inches. My question is: Will the buck stay in the general area, and will he get more mass next hunting season? — Joe

ANSWER: For your sake, I certainly hope so. It’s difficult to say without more information, but I can speculate on both.

Let’s start with question 1. Based on what we know about whitetail movement, it is reasonable to expect the buck will remain in the general vicinity of where you recovered his shed. However, that isn’t always the case.

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In northern states that receive a lot of snow, deer might travel five, 10 or more miles to traditional wintering areas. This migration typically occurs after the hunting season and before they shed antlers. Even in areas with less snowfall, they make shorter annual migrations or random movements in response to food availability. If the area you found the shed has good food, cover and water throughout the year, there’s a much better chance the buck will stay in the neighborhood.

Now for question 2. Odds are good the buck will gain mass, length and perhaps even spread. That’s assuming he went into the winter in good health, remains alive and healthy and has not reached his peak.

Much depends on local conditions. In heavily hunted areas, few bucks ever live long enough to reach their prime, which occurs somewhere between four and six years of age. In areas of very high deer density, bucks might peak at four and five and decline in vigor and rack size soon after.

Both conditions were once common in your home state of Pennsylvania. In many areas, that’s no longer the case. Assuming good habitat and relatively moderate deer densities, the measurements you describe don’t sound like a particularly old deer, which means he should grow a larger rack this year. Either way, be sure to send us photos when you tag him.

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