What is the Definition of a ‘Spike’ Deer?

 

Unbranched Antlers

Unbranched Antlers

 

According to the dictionary, a spike is an unbranched antler of a young deer.  Therefore, a spike deer is one that has unbranched antlers.

Before you get dewy eyed about this cute creature, please be aware that it is not what you want in your deer herd, if you are trying to manage for better deer yields.

Same Song, A Different Verse

If you are interested in  learning about this issue, I’ve written a series of 4 articles about ‘when to take (harvest) spike deer.’

Don’t take my word for it: Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas A & M University have done extensive testing to prove their claims.  My articles rephrase and explain their hypothesis.

1) Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting Whitetail?

2) Why Don’t We Just Let that Little Spike Grow Up?

3) What About Spikes While Whitetail Deer Hunting?

4) “This Spike is Better Lookin’ Than Any Ol’
6 Point Deer
!”

In a Nutshell

For those who just read the last page of a book: Spikes do not carry the genes for gorgeous racks. Culling them from the herd, before they can breed with the does, reduces their numbers – eventually.

This leaves antlered deer to breed and pass on their genes for full racks.

Does have an important role in all of this and TP&W also offers advice in this area.  From what I’ve read, managers who have taken their advice have noticed improved yields from their lands.

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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Published in: on January 27, 2009 at 12:03 pm  Comments Off on What is the Definition of a ‘Spike’ Deer?  
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“This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer!” (Sure it is.)

 

whitetaileddeer2sm

Generally: No Rack = No Want!

 

This is the final entry in this series: Shooting spikes while hunting whitetail deer.

What’s Most Important – Nutrition, Genetics or Age?

This is like asking which is more important: the digestive, circulatory or respiratory system? All three are critical to the life of a human. Life cannot be maintained without any one of these processes.

Deer need good genetics, good nutrition and to be of sufficient age to reach their potential. Since ‘a spike is a spike,’ he isn’t going to turn into a 16 point deer with good nutrition and age.

Texas Parks uses a term – “improper harvest.’ In this category, they include “over-harvest of older age class males.”  By making yearling spikes the main goal of a hunter’s aim, it takes pressure off of the older, fully-antlered bucks.

Texas Parks maintains that “by shifting hunting pressure to the bottom segment of the herd, age as well as antler quality can be improved.”

Where the Does Fit in this Plan

Unfortunately, does do not have “I carry spike genes” or “I carry antlered genes” stamped on their foreheads. Besides targeting spike yearlings, Texas P&W suggests, older does should be removed from the gene pool.

By removing these mature does, the balance between food availability and herd size would be stabilized. With more nutrition, there would be fewer fawns – with greater chance of survival.

Deer Management = Quality Deer

Males, because they mate with many does, have more influence on the gentetics of a herd. By removing the young spikes, potentially, more antlered deer join the gene pool. Since the older does (more likely to carry ‘spike genes’) are removed, eventually, the herd will have more antlered deer.

Final Word

Every hunter’s group will have someone tell about the ‘Spike that Grew a Huge Rack.’  They do happen; however, it can take years, and he still carries the spike genes.

Texas P&W says that hunters, by targeting antlered deer, are inadvertently creating more spikes. Why? If the spikes are allowed to grow, they – not the fork-antlered deer – are the breeding stock.  “If you protect fork-antlered yearlings from harvest long enough to allow them to mature, you can improve antler quality in the herd….”

If Texas P&W had their way (laws), I think there would be howls of protest from hunters in Texas. MDH* opines “it ain’t gunna’ happen.”

What do you think? If your state made these rules binding in your state (for x number of years), how would you feel about it?

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This Series:

Part 1: Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-Tailed Deer? (intro & item #1)

Part 2:  Why Don’t We Just Let That Little Spike Grow Up?  (items #2 thru #7)

Part 3:  What About Spikes While White-tail Deer Hunting?  (Commandments 8 thru 10, conclusions)

Part 4: “This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer! Sure it is.” (Conclusions)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

What About Those Spikes While Whitetail Deer Hunting?

 

whitetaileddeer3sm

Whitetailed Deer

 

Just a reminder: This is third in a series of postings about hunting spikes while whitetail deer hunting. The conclusions highlighted in orange are from the Texas Parks & Wildlife.

Texas A&M University’s Kerr Deer Management Facility was part of this study. The facility has deer from 20 generations, to watch the effects of variables on the evolution of the herd.  These same results were repeated in a Louisiana university study.

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(8) “Even when most bucks are spikes, removing them will not endanger the breeding potential.” Texas Parks and Wildlife researchers have proven that massive removal of spikes does not affect deer production. They’ve shown that a single buck can breed with as many as 40 does in a season.

(9) “Antler development improves with age up to a point.” Amazingly, you can expect antler production to improve until about the age of 6 1/2. After that time, the deer’s teeth deteriorate and older deer don’t intake sufficient nutrition (even in nutrition-rich climes) to develop large racks.

The deer with the best – most dense – antlers are usually between 4 1/2 – 6 1/2 years old.

(10) The best time to manage for genetic improvement is during periods of nutritional stress.  With less food available, it is important to feed breeding deer first – and best. Watch for young antlered bucks and make them your future breeding stock.

~~~What Does This Mean to the Hunter & Landowner?~~~

Harvesting spikes is good for herd development. In fact, they state clearly: “Consistently removing spikes from the herd will eventually improve the antler quality if the range is in good condition.”

A balance must be maintained between numbers of deer and food available. The best way to do that is through harvesting. By selecting young deer with poor antlers, you are allowing  deer with more genetically desirable traits (full antlers) to become the breeding stock.

An Interesting Aside –

According to Texas Parks statistics, hunters snag over 60% of the yearling bucks each year. Of those, about 60% are ‘fork-antlered deer.’

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Come back for the “Conclusion of the Conclusions.” If Texas Parks & Wildlife’s recommendations had any teeth (were law) there would be a howl of protest from hunters.

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This Series:

Part 1: Should I Shoot a Spike While Hunting White-Tailed Deer? (intro & item #1)

Part 2:  Why Don’t We Just Let That Little Spike Grow Up?  (items #2 thru #7)

Part 3:  What About Spikes While White-tail Deer Hunting?  (Commandments 8 thru 10, conclusions)

Part 4: “This Spike is Better Lookin’ than Any Ol’ 6 Point Deer! Sure it is.” (Conclusions)

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com

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!

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

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(1) The report I’m referring to is available online, as a pdf document at: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_lf_w7000_0247.pdf (It is 6 pages long.)

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* MDH = My Deer Husband, Richard 😉

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This blog is a companion to my website:  GreatGhilliesAndGraphics.com