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Interesting article in September 2000 North American Whitetail. Looks like Kentucky is taking a leadership role and trying new things - on State land at that. Also, note the new definition of an antlerless versus buck deer in Kentucky - The new definition includes all deer with polished antlers visible above the hairline, as bucks, no longer treating them as antlerless.

Kentucky Takes Steps for Healthier Deer Herd

Throughout deer-management circles, Kentucky is regarded as one of the most progressive states in the United States, and that reputation only figures to be strengthened by some recent actions on the part of wildlife officials there.
In a move deer-program coordinator Jon Gassett says is planned to "increase hunter opportunity and provide a better hunting experience," the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission has greatly liberalized doe hunting and has taken steps to limit the harvest of immature bucks, including those on five public hunting areas.
In states that traditionally have had short gun seasons, adding hunting days is "ong the most effective ways to increase doe harvest. Another option is to make more low-cost antleriess tags available to hunters over the counter. Kentucky has taken both steps.
In the past, Kentucky broke the state into six zones for deer management. This year, the wildlife commission has reduced the number to four, with each age of the bucks within the state's population.
In some states, wildlife officials apparently believe public hunting lands are all but impossible to manage for a healthy deer herd. But in Kentucky, the potential of public land for deer hunting is viewed differently. "Our WMAs (wildlife management areas) should be showpieces of quality hunting," claims Gassett.
With that goal in mind, this fall the harvest of antlered deer at Higginson- Henry, Green River, Dewey Lake, Pemyrile-Tradewater and Yellowbank WMAs will be limited to bucks with outside antler spreads of at least 15 inches. The goal is to reduce the number of yearling (I 1/2-year-old) bucks that are killed.
The 15-inch minimum is designed to protect the youngest, most vulnerable antlered bucks from harvest. Even with great nutrition, yearlings rarely have such wide racks. And, in most cases, a 15-inch outside spread can be verified even under field conditions.
"A simple way to determine whether a deer fits these criteria is if the antlers reach outside the tips of the animal's ears," Gassett notes.
Using antler spread as a harvest criterion is becoming a popular way to limit buck harvest. The technique was proven effective in Dooly County, Georgia, during the 1990s. There, in a first-of-its-kind program (funded in part by WHITETAIL), all lands within the county were placed under antler- spread restrictions. Landowners and hunters liked the program so well it now is used in some other counties as well. -Gordon Whittington
county's zone designation based on the herd's population trends. In zones I and 2, the regular gun season has been lengthened from 10 days to 16 (Nov. I 1 -26), but the added days (Nov. 2 1 - 26) are strictly for hunting antlerless deer. In zones 3 and 4, gun season remains 10 days (Nov. 11-20), with antlered deer legal on all days.
Zone I counties have more deer than the habitat can provide for in good health, and thus they are targeted for herd reduction. Hunters still are limited to one antlered buck per year, but there no longer is a limit on the number of antlerless deer that can be taken. Special Zone I antlerless permits are available at two for $IO.
Zone 2 counties have achieved deer numbers the wildlife agency considers desirable, and Zone 3 counties are approaching such densities. In addition to one antlered buck per year, hunters in either zone can take one antleriess deer on a statewide tag and can buy up to two bonus archery permits ($10 each) for taking extra does.
In Zone 4 counties, deer densities still are low enough that the herd will be allowed to keep growing. Hunters can take one antlered deer on a state- wide tag and can use the statewide antleriess permit during bow season. Up to two bonus archery permits can be purchased for taking additional does during bow season.
<b><u>The state also has adopted a more liberal definition of antlered deer, another move that should reduce the killing of young bucks.</u></b> Previously, a buck could be tagged as an antlerless deer if his antlers were less than 4 inches in length. The new definition includes all deer with polished antlers visible above the hairline.
Kentucky's stature as a top deer state is based largely on the fact that despite heavy rifle-hunting pressure during the rut, good numbers of mature bucks consistently show up in the harvest. This speaks to the effectiveness of the management program already in place - especially the annual bag limit of one antlered buck, regardless of weapon type.
The state's trophy output has risen noticeably since this buck bag limit was adopted over a decade ago. As is the case in neighboring Ohio, the limit has tightened the buck-to-doe ratio in Kentucky and has raised the average.


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Wow! Teriffic news for KY hunters!

I particularly like the 15" minimum antler spread requirement; it is certainly more effective in protecting yearling bucks than a "point restriction"-type requirement. And actually, I think it would be even easier to judge in the field (outside spread wider than the ears) than counting antler points, which is often tough to do.

In my area of study, south-central Michigan, my sightings indicate that 80% of the yearling buck class carries 6 or more antler points, and at least 40% of all yearling bucks carry 8 or more antler points. Antler point restrictions won't protect these guys, but an antler spread requirement generally will.

I've seen 1.5 year old bucks with 15" spreads, though very few; I would guess no more than 5% of their age class in my area. However,in '97 one of my hunting partners bow-killed a yearling buck in December with a whopping 17" inside spread.
Had that deer survived, he could be 4.5 years old this year...whoa baby!

And, or course, like all of the progressive management states, KY has the one-buck limit.
The combination of these regs has to move that state up on the list of prospective retirement destinations!

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The new definition includes all deer with polished antlers visible above the hairline.

How many button bucks, even bucks with 2" antlers are polished? Might sound good, realistic, I think not.

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Discussion Starter #4
Boehr, the devil's always in the detail. We'll have to see how it's interpreted and how it plays out. And how hunter mistakes are handled (GA has chosen to issue warnings for reasonable judgment errors, such as mistakes in minimum antler spread).

I do like the proactive deer management position that Kentucky appears to be taking.


266 Posts
"Polished antlers and ears characteristics" :
If you have not read it, please refer to the topic "Average and individual quality".
As always I am writting about red deer.

Yearlings antlers are very, very seldom branched, exceptionally two or even a tiny initiation of three points on top. Their length can vary considerably from 0 up to 20-23 inches depending on the well being of the animal from prior to birth on.
All through the years, from yearlings antlers length, polished or not aspect, stand points, we have noticed some years were better than others, due to weather differences prior the onset of antlers growth. We had also noticed important differences in pedicles size.
We came to the following conclusions :

- The pedicles size, in height and diameter (both go together) is a very good indication of the future weight of the mature stags deer antlers. As pedicles first appear "in utero", at the time of sexual differentiation, their final size is most likely dependent on the mother well being during gestation, and the end result is definitive : small pedicles are synonymous of a male with small antlers, all along life.
- Small pedicles are always followed by small spikes which, finally, may be pointed, polished, frequently white, or not.
- Large pedicles can be followed by long white polished spikes (branched, or not on the top, and if so, as a rule black looking)BUT ALSO by short ones, even shorter than the ears (8 inches)which are never pointed nor polished on tops,look black and are porous on close examination (globally very obvious in the field). These defects result of poor living conditions met after birth, mostly during during winter and spring. The same phenomenon can also be observed on the tops of older males, more or less spectacularly, depending on wether or not full body growth has been achieved (Skeleton growth has priority): we resume this by saying that "unachieved" antlers tops, on large pedicles, mean that the animal could not meet the favourable conditions needed to accomplish his age skeleton and antlers potential at the same time. It seems, at least for animals over the yearling stage, that the situation will have no, or little importance afterwards.
I would appreciate if someone would tell me if similar observations have been made about whitetail.

Obviously the reference to ear characteristics is generally most easy and usefull in field judgement, and you are lucky to be able to use it for antlers spread : for stags we can only use it for spikes length estimate. All yearlings with "achieved" (white, pointed and polished) spikes, shorter than the ears, are characteristics of weak males which will always be under average (body and antlers) in a population whose average physical condition is fair.

Obviously, any reference to antlers aspect to protect strong yearlings of a very premature (...) shooting to restore a good sex ratio, must be established according to the average antlers quality in each management unit.As there is no doubt in my mind that this average quality can vary from one year to the next, just as for our red deer, I wish what I wrote may proove useful.

Another interesting, and useful (in the field) feature about older males quality is that, as long as the stag has the GLOBAL mass of his antlers towards the top, that means he has not yet reached his full potential, whereas when the global mass is towards the head, either he will not grow larger antlers, or he is very old and his best have already been casted before...

Please, do not misunderstand me when I write about antlers : If I suffered from trophy mania when I was a very young hunter (mostly because of a total lack of any knowledge), it's way, way behind me ... Secondly, I also ceased to believe, many years ago, that selective shooting of weakly antlered males could improve any herd quality ... I just feel that, in as much as culling must take place to reach and maintain a density favourable to the deer welfare and quality, it looks logical to shoot the weakest calves and yearlings first ("useless mouths" for the herd.
In red deer, geneticists think genes have a bearing on the general antlers shape (viewed from the front), the arrangement and the number of the points (for instance, some only wear 8 all along their life, with a top fork looking either to the front, or to the side) : With them, I also think the biodiversity of genes must absolutely be maintained.
What about whitetail in this respect ?

Very friendly yours, Jack.

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