Most hunters and property owners involved in deer management are interested in healthy herds and increased antler growth and size in bucks. There are numerous other positives that result from managed whitetail populations, the most important of which are healthier, more diverse plant communities for all wildlife species. You can always do more to work toward having that world record buck roam your property.
Good habitat equates to better bucks, but sometimes additional inputs are needed to harness all of the antler-growing potential within bucks found on the property. It’s often during the deer hunting season that hunters take inventory of the bucks roaming their land, but the time to take action for next year is right now.
Best Way To Increase Deer Antler Size
The months following the rut are critically important for future antler growth because bucks are attempting to fully recover from the intense, grueling breeding season.
Antler size can be improved on bucks through adding points, increasing the lengths of points or by increasing the circumference of existing antler material, thus increasing mass. A lot of hunters look for a buck with a wide-spreading rack, but I’ll take the heavy-horned freak nasty every time. The only way to produce and harvest larger bucks is to add inches to antler measurements. Points (and plenty of them) tack on the most in terms of a buck’s score, but there are several other measurements, as well as factors, that play a role.
How Bucks Grow Big Antlers
Antler growth in whitetail bucks always comes down to three things: age, genetics and nutrition. Antlers get larger as a buck gets older up to a certain point, then they start declining in size. There is some debate on when exactly that occurs, but I don’t think there is a single right answer here. Just as individual bucks vary in antler quality, I think different bucks peak at different years. Environmental conditions, buck to doe ratios and other factors all impact this. Hunters may see a buck’s best antlers anywhere from 5 1/2 to 8 1/2 years of age. Antler mass will increase with age. Paying attention to a deer antler growth chart is important for timing purposes.
Genetics are obviously important, but they are difficult to manage and this is especially true on small acreages where whitetail management and growing better bucks is the goal. Genetics for antler growth comes down to "what you see is what you get." That is, unless you do something different. In the situation outlined above, it’s nearly impossible to make meaningful genetic changes in the deer herd. The size of the property may be a limitation, but the road does not end there.
Landowners and hunters have much more control when it comes to deer nutrition. In fact, there are many options when it comes to providing additional, high quality foods for whitetail. Food plots can work great in areas with dependable rainfall and good soils. In other areas, not so much. But this opens the door to supplements such as protein pellets, whole cottonseed and roasted soybeans. And let’s not forget that superior, natural forb and browse production can be encouraged on any property through deer habitat improvement that involves a variety of land management practices.