Deer Antler Characteristics in Relation to Land Use and Spatio-temporal Factors in Missouri

Deer antler growth is influenced by the environment, population density, genetics, and nutrition. As land use and densities change over time, antler characteristics are hypothesized to also change. We examined how geography, land use, and the number of deer harvested per unit area (i.e., harvest density) related to white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) antler characteristics of harvested yearling bucks in Missouri during 2 time periods (1951-1970 and 1997-2001). Latitude related positively to antler characteristics in the early time period. Amount of cropland harvested was positively associated with antler characteristics, while amount of pastureland, and amount of grazed woodland were negatively related during the recent time period. Deer from the Glaciated Plains physiographic region exhibited a significant decline in number of points (¯x = 6.3 to 5.4) and beam circumference (¯x = 72.5 to 68.6 mm) across time. Physiographic regions differed in relation to antler characteristics during the early time period (P < 0.0001), but became similar with time. Harvest differed with physiographic region within each time period. Changing antler characteristics through time may reflect lower densities during the 1950s and 1960s in relation to the nutritional plane available across the state. Effects of land use practices, along with effects of physiographic-specific harvest, should be considered when setting population management goals.

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