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Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

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Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

Old 04-17-2007, 12:41 PM
Typical Buck
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Default Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

I'm putting this thread up just sort of FYI. It's an opinion piece based on three years of shed hunting where I've picked up 60 whitetail sheds. My brother and I have also killed three bucks in this same area. The real surprise is how far the antler growth diverges from my conceptions as recently as three years ago. The area is in NW Montana, in an area where deer depend on big woods browse and the odd logging cut for forage. No crops within 10 miles.

Bucks at 3 1/2 years old typically gross score 100-120 inches;
Bucks at 4 1/2 years oldtypically gross score110-140 inches;
Bucks at 5 1/2 years and up typically go 120-160 inches; until they begin to decline again with age. Some old bucks drop back below 100 inches.

I believe the average 6 1/2 year old buck here might gross about 140. In other words, B&C class bucks are extremely rare, even with good age structure.

I would love to here fromthose of youwith comparable or greater experience on this topic. How does this compare to your area?
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Old 04-17-2007, 12:54 PM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

here in south central Illinois:

2.5 yr olds = 105 to 120 gross
3.5 yr olds = 120 to 135 gross
4.5 yr olds = 135 to 150 gross
5.5 yr olds = 150 gross and up

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Old 04-17-2007, 01:22 PM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

That is a lot of sheds there Dirt. You must have a really good wintering range you are walking. I would keep that one to yourself. I walk a lot of miles and haven't found probably 25 sheds in the last 3 years. But I am curious, are you in Lincoln, Flathead? I live in the east Flathead Valley and would tend to agree, although its hard to tell the age of a buck from its sheds. Did you age the three deer you killed? I would be curious to have the data from all the check stations on the whitetails and rough score to go with the jawbone.
The other thing I would really like to know is how many 5.5 y.o. deer we have period. Between the cats and the wolves in NW MT, I bet the relative number is quite low. Most of what I see is the typical 4x4 basket buck, probably 3.5, scoring 115. We are inundated with them. Seems like just getting that 5th tine on a buck anymore is a feat in itself.
And even with the predators and the hunters, NW MT is still clearly one of the best places to get a true B&C whitetail. Have you ever looked at the distribution map on the B&C sight? Very few "red" counties in the west, but there is Lincoln, Flathead, Ravalli Counties.
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Old 04-17-2007, 01:24 PM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

Here is the typical buck I am talking about. Picked it up last night.

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Old 04-18-2007, 09:46 AM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

northern indiana they are as followed

2.5 yr olds = 105 to 120 gross
3.5 yr olds = 120 to 140 gross
4.5 yr olds = 130 to 160 gross
5.5 yr olds = 150 gross and up
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Old 04-19-2007, 12:42 AM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

high agriculture regions tend produce the best wild herd bucks, iowa, minnesota, illinios
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Old 04-19-2007, 03:44 AM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails


high agriculture regions tend produce the best wild herd bucks, iowa, minnesota, illinios
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Old 04-19-2007, 08:11 AM
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

In NW Montana the long hard winter, and lack of food probably are the two big limiting factors to antler growth in your area. Here in south/central MO we don't have really bad winters, but there is not a lot agriculture. We've planted Alfalfa on our farm and put in several food plots with oats and brassicas and after 5 years we have seen a small increase in antler growth and body weight.
2.5: 110-120
3.5: 120-140
4.5: 130-160
5.5: 140-
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Old 04-23-2007, 02:44 PM
Typical Buck
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Default RE: Antler Growth of MT Whitetails

Thanks to all for the replies, I really do appreciate it. It helps me get a mental picture.

To MTdrahthaar, yes I havea great area to shed hunt in. It's a winter range that draws more whitetail in than just the year-round native population. I'm at 22 sheds this spring. It has become a major part of my annual ritual, and I really work at it. I'll say it's in NW Montana, but not in your immediate area. I live in the Bitterroot and actually gave up on the whitetail hunt here. The old bucks just are very, very rare here because of the hunting pressure. (I don't bow hunt the river bottom, that'sanother gameentirely.)Once I spent a few days in NW MT I knew I'd turned over a new leaf. Two of the last three seasons, I've gone into there on the final day of the season just for kicks, no tags left, and had monster bucks walk past inside bow range. That area suffers very little hunter mortality, so it's a question of predators. Oddly, I don't see much sign of cougars and wolves, although granted I did find a dead cougar this spring!

Anyhow, you can draw up a real rough picture of buck age structure if you have F&G data on buck:doe:fawn ratios. Hang on for the math, but here in the Bitterroot they typically count ratios of 16:100:66. You can extract a buck mortality rate from that, specifically it should be 33/49 or about 67%. NW MT doesn't do specific aerial surveys of whitetails, but they estimate 30:100:40 on the F&G website. That gives you annual mortality of "only" 40% (20/50). Anybody who really wants to know the math behind that can ask. Anyhow below is a basic age structure for the B-root vs. NW MT, based on those mortality rates.

B-root NW MT
1 1/2 1,000 1,000
2 1/2 330 600
3 1/2 109 360
4 1/2 36 216
5 1/2 + 18 324.

Those curves assume that mortality is level across the ages, which probably isn't true. I think it'sclear that you don't see as many older bucks as that chart suggests you should. I think some small percentage of hunters out there do pass up smaller bucks, plus the older boys start to drop faster as they age. My "more accurate" charts would rachet up mortality once bucks reach 3 1/2 years old, and look like this:

B-root NW MT
1 1/2 1,000 1,000
2 1/2 400 700
3 1/2 160 490
4 1/2 32 245
5 1/2 + 8 245.

Those ratios are ballpark to what I actually see in the woods. In the B-root about 1 buck in 8 should be 3 1/2 years or older, my hunting logs have the ratio at about 1 in 6. Only 1 in 40 would actually be the magic 4 1/2 plus category, which given our slower antler growth rates is the age Ireally start to get excited about. I have yet to see an actual 4 1/2 year old in the B-root.

Up north, the picture brightens considerably. Better than 1/3 of the bucks should go 3 1/2 plus, and my hunting logs would say right at 40%. Furthermore, you actually see some 4 1/2 year old and older deer. Roughly 1 buck in 6 should be at that magical age, and my hunt logs have the ratio pretty near that.

Before more folks decide to move in to MT, remember to temper those numbers with the realization that by age 2 1/2, our bucks are about a year behind the growth curve typical of the midwest. (Most of our 2 1/2 year olds score 70-90.)

Good luck to all, if I get windy, at least it helps me through the offseason.
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