Deer Hunting and “Horn” Growth

Question: I hunt on a deer lease in Fairfield, Texas and have had my trail cameras out for about 3 weeks now. I have been getting pictures of some whitetail bucks on the ranch, but their antlers are looking somewhat small, in my opinion. Is it too early in the summer to begin to notice whether or not the bucks on the camera will be shooters come October? I know that antler growth and deer hunting in Texas can depend on the weather, but what do you think about these deer? Attached are some of the buck pictures from the lease. Thank you!

Response: In most of Texas, about 60 percent of a buck’s antlers are grown during the month of June, so game camera photos will begin to give you a real good idea of what you can expect from bucks on your lease. Although a buck’s “horns” typically get bigger with age, using antler size alone as a measure of whether or not a buck is a shooter is a bad idea. The other important factor to take into account with whitetail buck harvest is age.

In the photos you sent, one of the bucks looks fairly young, while the other buck looks quite a bit older, though both have a similar antler size. In this case, it would be a better long-term plan to shoot the older buck regardless of his antler size. Of course, the buck must also meet any antler restrictions in the county in which you hunt. Although much of the initial growth has taken place antler-wise, it will take another month before you can really determine what a buck is going to have on top of his head.

You also mentioned that the weather plays a role in both horn growth as well as during the hunting season. This is very true. This year has been extremely dry, so expect less than average antler growth this deer hunting season. However, you can expect to see more animals simply because habitat conditions are bad, meaning both bucks and does will be on the move looking for food. Good luck!

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