John's Journal...

The Latest Research on Deer

The Truth about the Effects of Breeder White-Tailed Bucks

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Today outdoorsmen have begun to learn more about the white-tailed deer. In the past, we haven’t known the right questions to ask. But now scientists and researchers have started studying deer more intensely. Brian Murphy, QDMA executive director, has kept his finger on the pulse of new deer research to inform the members of QDMA and outdoors enthusiasts how to better manage whitetails. This week, we’ll bring you the latest research concerning deer.

For many years, hunters have had the perception that if they leave the big older bucks with massive antlers and heavy body weights in the herd that these breeder bucks will breed about 50 percent of the herd, resulting in better genetics. Some hunters also believe that numbers of big bucks (breeder bucks) will keep subordinate bucks froClick to enlargem breeding, just like a boss gobbler will keep subordinate gobblers from gobbling and breeding. “A study done by Randy B. Young at Texas A&M in Kingsville, Texas, who’s also done some research at Mississippi State University, tests this theory by using DNA as a research tool,” Brian Murphy, executive director of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) in Bogart, Georgia, explains. “Young captured deer and pulled DNA samples to recreate a family tree for the herd he was studying with some degree of precision. He was able to determine which bucks bred which does, what bucks and does were related to each other, and how many fawns an individual buck was actually producing each year. His research revealed some very-interesting data. Click to enlarge

“Three different areas were studied in Oklahoma, south Texas and Mississippi. One place was a traditionally-managed herd – a public WMA in Mississippi; one was a quality-managed area in Oklahoma with good buck-age structure and good population saturation; and the third region was the King Ranch in Texas, which probably had and still has the best buck age structure in the nation. The study revealed that:
* “yearlings and 2-1/2-year-old bucks accounted for 1/3 or more of all fawns produced in all three areas, even regions under an intense trophy-management program. Even on the King Ranch where 50 percent of the bucks were 4-1/2-years old or older, the 1- to 2-1/2-year olds accounted for 1/3 or more of all fawns produced.
* “an increased number of fawns were produced by bucks 3 and 3-1/2-years or older, but there wasn’t a significant huge difference.
* “the average buck only accounted for about three fawns that survived each year, in all three areas, which shattered the idea that a big mature dominant buck might produce 20 or 30 fawnClick to enlarges a year. Big bucks apparently had a low impact on the overall genetic input of the entire herd.
* “the top breeder over a 6-year period in this study only produced 14 fawns that could be identified. The study coordinator believed that these fawns accounted for about 2/3 of all the fawns produced by that buck.
* “25 percent of the twin fawns had multiple sires, which meant that a doe that dropped twin fawns could have been bred by more than one buck.”
The fact that white-tailed deer breed entirely different from elk has influenced the results of Young’s study. A white-tailed buck has to search, find, stay with and possibly breed a doe over about a 2-day period from start to finish. The buck has to spend plenty of time locating that one hot doe. After he breeds her, he stays with her and defends her until she’s no longer receptive. At the same time, other does will come into heat and become available.

To learn more about QDMA, go to or call 1-800-209-DEER.

Tomorrow: Whether to Cull White-Tailed Bucks, and What about the Possible Inferiority of Spike Bucks

Check back each day this week for more about "The Latest Research on Deer"

Day 1: How Coyotes Impact Deer Herds
Day 2: More on How Coyotes Impact Deer Herds
Day 3: The Truth about the Effects of Breeder White-Tailed Bucks
Day 4: Whether to Cull White-Tailed Bucks, and What about the Possible Inferiority of Spike Bucks
Day 5: The Importance of Photographing Deer and Developing a Hit List to Learn the Most about Your Land’s Deer Herd



Entry 393, Day 3