Age, Condition, and Genetic Effects on Incidence of Spike Bucks

Data were taken from 3,721 male white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) harvested from the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina for the years 1977 to 1982 to document the incidence of spike bucks relative to habitat differences, harvest methodology, body weight, condition, and genetic variability. Of the 1.5-year-old bucks harvested, 33.1% had spike antlers. The incidence of spike or non-spike antlers was significantly correlated with age (r =0.29) and body weight (r =0.37). Significant differences in the incidence of spike bucks were observed between swamp and upland habitat types. Bucks with higher levels of genetic variability showed greater antler growth in the older age classes. The significant relationship observed between genetic variability and incidence of spiking suggests that breeding structure of the herd could have an important influence on the incidence of spike bucks and environmental parameters may be secondarily involved. Selective spike buck management should be conducted over long periods of time, over large areas, and under conditions where nutritional and demographic constraints are minimal.

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