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John's Journal... Entry 130, Day 1


Do Monster Bucks Produce Monster Bucks?

EDITOR'S NOTE: What role does genes play in your local deer herd? Can the introduction of a monster buck into a herd assure quality deer for years to come? The answer to these and other questions will definitely surprise you. If a Boone and Crockett buck was introduced into your deer herd, would he produce super bucks? Could you buy a monstrous-sized Alberta buck and bring it to Tennessee, Virginia, Arkansas or Alabama and expect the buck to breed with does and produce offspring with heavier body weights and larger antlers? Through selective breeding, could you implant does with embryos that carry super genes to produce offspring that become bigger bucks with wider racks? To get the answer to these questions and many more about genes and their potential, I talked with Dr. Harry Jacobson from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi. One of the nation's leading deer researchers, Jacobson currently studies genetic effects on deer populations.

Question: Can scientists produce big antlers through genetic selection?
Answer: A hunter can do little genetically to improve antler development and body weights in bucks within a wild deer population. However, in pen studies, biologists have selectively improved antler quality. With specific selection for certain traits, we've produced deer with specific characteristics, such as additional antler points and heavier antler mass. We haven't tried to produce super bucks, but we have studied the relationship in terms of predictability and inheritance estimates relative to antler traits. My job is to study the role genetics play in a wide range of deer traits.

Question: What role does genetics play in determining a whitetail's body weight and skeletal size?
Answer: Scientists find differences across the sub-species of deer. For example, in the most northern part of the whitetail's range, the deer have larger body weights and skeletal size than Texas deer.

Question: What would happen if a Wisconsin buck bred with a Texas doe and the offspring lived in Texas? Would you have bigger offspring than the average-size Texas deer?
Answer: Not necessarily. In all likelihood, the Wisconsin buck's body size will be larger than a Texas buck's, but the offspring may grow to the same size as the average Texas deer.

Question: Since northern deer usually have bigger antlers than southern deer, if you cross a buck from Alberta, Canada, with a buck from Georgia or Mississippi, will the offspring have larger than average antlers?
Answer: You can't say that northern bucks always have larger antlers than southern bucks. The bucks in south Texas develop much larger antlers than similarly aged deer in other areas of the country. Body size and antler development don't necessarily go hand in hand either. Although south Texas deer may have relatively small body weights, they may be endowed with extremely large antlers. Northern deer may have a large body size but not big antlers.





Check back each day this week for more about The Super Gene ...

Day 1 - Do Monster Bucks Produce Monster Bucks?
Day 2 - Can Biologists Produce Monster Bucks?
Day 3 - What Is A Trophy Buck?
Day 4 - Don't Shoot Spikes
Day 5 - Managing A Deer Herd For Big Bucks

John's Journal