By Mark Kenyon
A little over a week ago, while in Georgia for the Quality Deer Management Association National Convention, I sat in on a seminar from Dr. Craig Harper called “Debunking The Most Common Deer Myths”. It was a great talk and during the presentation Harper, a distinguished wildlife researcher from the University of Tennessee, walked through about 10-15 different deer related myths, and then examined various research and date to see if there was any truth to the popular claims. In most cases, there wasn’t. That said, I wanted to discuss four of those myths today and share what I learned from Harper down in Georgia. Enjoy.
Spikes Should Be Culled: The culling of spike bucks, like the one staring at you from the photo above, has been popular for many years, as the widespread belief was that these bucks were genetically inferior and would spread poor antler growing characteristics if allowed to breed. Research has found though that this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact most spikes are actually a result of either poor nutrition or a late birth. If allowed to grow to maturity, these bucks can turn into large antler producers and very respectable bucks.
The Old Barren Doe: You’ve probably heard someone mention this one before. The “old barren doe”. The traditional belief maintains that eventually old does stop producing fawns, but research has proven that this one is absolutely false. In fact, it’s been shown that the older a doe gets the more fawns she’ll produce. One study showed that on average a two year old doe weaned 1.1 fawns, while the oldest age class 9+ year olds weaned on average a full two fawns.
Mineral Licks Improve Antler Growth For Deer: Here’s another hotly contested question in the deer world, whether or not mineral licks improve nutrition and antler growth in deer. Most believe that there are some benefits of mineral licks for deer, but research to this point hasn’t proven it out. Dr. Craig Harper cited several studies that have showed little discernible effect on antler growth when comparing deer that had access to mineral sites versus those that didn’t. Research continues, but to this point, minerals still seem to be unproven.
Moon-Phase Rut Predictions: Here’s one of the most popular debates in the world of deer hunting, how to predict the rut. There are several much discussed theories that link moon phase to inducing rutting behaviors in whitetails, but Dr. Harper insisted that the research undoubtedly proves this to be false. Several studies were cited that showed no connection between moon phase and actual breeding, and I think that’s the key point to take note of. These studies examine the actual date of breeding and conception. This can be determined with various fetus measurements, and these measurements across most of the country show a very consistent peak breeding date that does not change year to year with moon phase. What these studies don’t take note of though are breeding related behaviors during daylight, which are what most hunters look for during the rut, and these may or may not be influenced by moon phase. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, check out our compilation of 2014 rut predictions.