Ask The Biologist

One Tough Myth

One Tough Myth

By Bob Humphrey

The spike question has more lives than Rasputin.

QUESTION: Does a spike always remain a spike? Or next year could he become something more? It seems like people believe once a spike always a spike, but when I ask someone they all say that’s what I’ve been told. I don’t know who this person is, but he or she sure seems to know a lot of people! Do you know the truth? And if so can you confirm or deny this issue? – Chris R.

ANSWER: Yeah, that’s how a lot of misinformation gets perpetuated. I thought we put this old myth to bed a long time ago, but obviously it’s still circulating in some deer hunting circles. There was a time when hunters and some deer managers proclaimed: “Once a spike, always a spike,” and promoted the practice of culling spikes to improve antler quality. In certain rare instances that is the case, but it is definitely the exception rather than the rule.

Tons of research has proven over and over again that yearling spikes, if left to grow, will most often produce branched antlers in subsequent years. The exceptions are usually rare genetic aberrations or areas of extremely poor nutrition.

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