Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-tailed Deer? **(Part 1)


Whitetailed Deer

Whitetailed Deer


MDH* brought  this fascinating article to my attention today.

Unfortunately, it is several thousand words long.  I would call it a “white paper” from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Division. (1)

They did their research at  Texas A & M University’s Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Why this is significant is that this facility has over 20 generations of deer.

Cut to the Chase

For those folks who read the last page of a mystery before starting the book, here’s the answer: “Yes, by harvesting spikes early-on, it improves the antler quality of the remaining herd.” However, the story of why this is true is what is so interesting.

What is a ‘Spike?’

So that everyone is on the same page, let’s define a ‘spike.’ Texas Parks sees it as “any deer at least a year old that has two hardened antlers that do not branch or fork.” They are NOT referring to young fawns with “skin covered knobs” called a “nubbin buck.”

They go on to say that, “Buck fawns occasionally have a protrusion of chalky white bone tissue through the skin up to 1/2 inch long, but this is rare and we don’t call them spikes.”

What Hunters Think

There’s controversy about this subject. Many hunters don’t want to kill spikes because they think that poor nutrition is the reason a year-old has no rack. (In other words, their suggestion is – to paraphrase an angler – ‘Throw ’em back and let ’em grow up a bit.”)

Another idea is to shoot older spikes, because genetically, they’ve proved that they are not capable of developing antlers. Their reasoning continues: ‘Save the young spikes, poor nutrition is the reason youngsters didn’t produce a rack this year.’

Texas Park’s Advice on Spikes

This is a direct quote: “If two spikes walk out in front of you in a 2-buck county, shoot the smallest one first and don’t let the second get away.” I was so surprised, I had to read this three times!

Before I go into the “Ten Commandments of Texas Parks Regarding Spikes (my words, not theirs),” let me assure my ambivalent readers that studies in Louisiana have confirmed these findings. Therefore, either the deer in two states are crazy or these findings can be replicated across America — or at least the South.

A Little Thing Called, “Genetic Potential”

(1) “Antler development is genetically based. Not all deer have the same genetic potential.” (conclusions drawn by Texas Parks & Wildlife biologists) Nutrition AND ‘genetic potential’ are necessary for antler development. If either one of these elements is missing, antlers don’t grow. They proved this by allowing spikes to breed with does in pens. There was nutritious food, vitamins, water, etc., yet a high percentage of the offspring were spikes!


Come back soon:  Commandments #2 thru 7, next time!


(1) The report I’m referring to is available online, as a pdf document at: (It is 6 pages long.)


* MDH = My Deer Husband, Richard 😉


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