Paul and friends ask,
1. This year in WI we had a mild winter and spring. We noticed that some bucks held on to their antlers much longer this year. We noticed that some bucks still had antlers when we had our trail cams out scouting for spring turkeys. The reason for this is ….?
Testosterone regulates when bucks begin dropping their antlers. After the rut, bucks experience a sharp decline in testosterone. Other factors such as stress and available nutrition affect the time bucks drop their antlers as well. I also noticed on some of my cameras back home in Wisconsin that one buck in particular held onto his antlers relatively late. The mild winter and spring caused a lot less stress on the deer herd this year which may be one reason why bucks held onto their antlers so late. Another reason could be that does weren’t bred during the regular breeding season and were still coming into estrus later into the winter. This may have caused bucks to have increased testosterone levels later in the year which would have delayed the time of antler drop. However, there is also a lot of individual variation that could contribute to the time a buck drops his antlers.
2. We believe that deer go nocturnal once the bow season starts. Is this an accurate observation? Is there a reason for this?
There is no doubt about it that deer increase movements at night, but there are a lot of reasons why you may not be seeing deer while in stand. The biggest reason may be that when deer are pressured they begin using habitat that is thicker than usual. When deer begin using this type of cover it becomes hard for hunters to locate and see them and lead many hunters to believe deer have gone nocturnal.
3. You had a nice response on deer habitat and food plots. To have deer that grow large antlers is there an advantage to having plots with high mineral content or would high protein content be preferable?
You want to provide deer with food plots that are high in protein or carbohydrate content. Carbohydrates are great for deer when they are trying to put on fat to survive a winter. Protein is great for bucks during the summer when they are growing their antlers. Biologists still know very little about how minerals affect antler growth in bucks. Calcium and phosphorus are the only minerals that we know affect antler growth and can be provided by using a mineral lick. Planting multiple types of plots will help to ensure there is food on the ground at all times of the year for your herd.
4. Is a doe in heat bred by many bucks or does she hang with the dominant buck? Does the first buck to reach this doe have the best chance to have an offspring?
A doe can be bred by multiple bucks while she is receptive. This has been documented in Mississippi State’s captive herd where DNA analysis showed multiple paternity in offspring. This can be a smart strategy on the doe’s behalf because it ensures that she will conceive offspring. The first buck to reach a receptive doe is not necessarily the buck that will breed her. That buck has to be able to fend off other suitors until the doe becomes completely receptive. Factors such as age, body size, antler size, and aggressiveness all help bucks to defend estrus does. The buck that can defend a doe in estrus the longest has the best chance to breed her.
Thanks for the questions Paul!