Lack of Significant Growth With Age -- Just A Southern Thing?

Nightvision

5 year old buck +
This is the biggest one year change I have ever seen in any deer. I still can hardly believe it.

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We’re you able to kill him? That’s a whopper!
 

Mortenson

5 year old buck +
Genetics, soil, & sub species type.

You have either Florida coastal whitetail or Florida Whitetail deer. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_deer


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I never realized we had a different sub species of deer in IL than across the river in Iowa. Interesting map... a sub species found in Mexico goes all the way into SD.
 

bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
I don’t know how much of anomaly it is, I have one right now that hasn’t done anything from the 2019 season to now but I have another that put on about 40” from last year to this year and roughy 60 plus from 2 years ago. I guess you just never know.
On a side note, that last deer you posted is a hammer for north Florida

Howboutthemdawgs, the buck in the last few pictures is the same one I mentioned didn't change much relative to the previous year. As for being a hammer in North Florida, not sure I'd go quite that far as I've had nicer bucks around each of the 7 years I've lived on my land. Which brings me to the points Tree Spud made...

Genetics, soil, & sub species type.

You have either Florida coastal whitetail or Florida Whitetail deer. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-tailed_deer

Blessedly, we've got about as good of soil as can be found in Florida. Not that it's going to compete with ag lands in the Midwest (DEFINITELY not) but thankfully we aren't flat as a pancake with extremely sandy soils like much of Florida. The Tallahassee area is surprisingly hilly in spots, and I've read that it long ago served as part of the tail end of the ancient Appalachian mountain range before it was worn down... and you can kind of see it if looking at US relief map. The soils in the surrounding areas are quite varied but with a fair portion loamy and with some clay. Not surprisingly a fair portion of the larger bucks harvested each year are from our county and the surrounding counties. At least a few bucks each year or two are gross scored between 140 to 170, and one of the top 2 state record bucks from the area scored just over 200 though it was harvested about 80 years ago.

Our area primarily consists of the Florida coastal whitetail, but area residents have told me repeatedly that in the distant past area plantations brought deer down from the north and midwest in an effort to improve genetics. I have ZERO idea if the efforts were effective or not. That said, one crazy thing I can speak to is how extremely varied the rut is in our area with the bucks on my land almost always showing pre-rut signs in October, followed by a heavy first rut by Thanksgiving and with weaker ruts in December and really tapering off in January. Yet friends 10+ miles away often will tell me that their cameras show almost NO rutting activity until December on their lands. Again, can't swear how much truth is in the claims but I know several folks who hunt multiple leases who say it is almost like different areas have different family groupings with varying key rut times.

Promise, didn't start the thread in any way to cry over the single buck I shared as an example. Instead, it really is just a matter of pure curiosity / desire to gain education based on some bucks in the area developing more typical signs of aging... and not just nicer racks but also much more thick, muscled bodies when in their prime and then big briskets, big bellies, and sagging necks in old age.

Sure NOT sharing the pics below for any bragging rights / know quite a few forum members would pass on most of the pictured North Florida bucks, but instead share them just to compare to the buck I shared at the start of the post and to help others appreciate why I found his lack of any notable change a bit unusual.

First pics of some obviously mature bucks showing body and rack signs of aging...

Buck from camera hits in 2016 I called "Hartford"

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Another obviously mature buck caught on camera in 2018...

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Buck I called "Me Likey"...

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Me Likey 2.jpg

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And buck I called Irma (first spotted on camera just hours before Hurricane Irma hit us)

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bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
Pics shared immediately above show how at least some or our bucks seem to develop more of what would be general signs of maturity body-wise -- muscle mass, horn mass (even when wonky), bigger briskets, and thicker bellies.

As for horns, average I've harvested have grossed around 120... and again appreciate that would make for passes for many on the forum.

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Have harvested one in the 130s... his horns were actually disproportionate to his body, and I'm fairly confident he wasn't over age 4.5.

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Had these two visiting regularly last year... I harvested the one on the left, neighbor got the one on the right.

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bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
But with the follow-up pics shared, likely have at least one buck or two a year that like the one I shared at the start of the post just don't look much different at all, and again want to stress NOT just rack size BUT ALSO body shape / conformation. Have had a few bucks with distinguishing factors I've been able to track to apparent death at 7.5+ that never looked much different from year to year other than looking weak / declining in their final year.

Sounds from some of the responses that isn't unique to the south. Maybe even a result of not having top ranking relative to other mature bucks / having to settle for less prime ground, facing increased stress, etc...?

And will say I think Swamp Cat's spot-on relative to my observations when he says that he has noted his southern deer show their general hand by 3.5 be it impressive or not, as well as declining a bit earlier than might be expected once age 6 and up.

MUCH appreciate all the feedback. Know it's mostly been based on each of our own anecdotal observations (versus statistical measured ones) but still find it very interesting and MUCH appreciate everyone taking time to share feedback.
 
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Tree Spud

5 year old buck +
But with the follow-up pics shared, likely have at least one buck or two a year that like the one I shared at the start of the post just don't look much different at all, and again want to stress NOT just rack size BUT ALSO body shape / conformation. Have had a few bucks with distinguishing factors I've been able to track to apparent death at 7.5+ that never looked much different from year to year other than looking weak / declining in their final year.

Sounds from some of the responses that isn't unique to the south. Maybe even a result of not having top ranking relative to other mature bucks / having to settle for less prime ground, facing increased stress, etc...?

And will say I think Swamp Cat's spot-on relative to my observations when he says that he has noted his southern deer show their general hand by 3.5 be it impressive or not, as well as declining a bit earlier than might be expected once age 6 and up.

MUCH appreciate all the feedback. Know it's mostly been based on each of our own anecdotal observations (versus statistical measured ones) but still find it very interesting and MUCH appreciate everyone taking time to share feedback.

I shared the map with you so you can better understand the type of deer that is in your area.

One of the drivers for northern whitetails to get big, is the drive to eat more as they go from summer to winter. They need to put on weight as ag sources start to disappear and they have to rely on different food sources to survive the winters. You don't have that cycle in your area and a very large buck may struggle in the opposite effect of your heat. Animals adapt to their ecosystem so that they can survive.

I have been chasing deer in Northern Alberta. The deer up there grow very large. A live body weight of 300 lbs is pretty regular and 325-350 lbs is also common. I hunt in provincial Forrest lands in the deep bush. The closet ag lands are 20 miles away. The habitat is primarily black spruce & popular with shrubs such as alder, dogwood, etc. Their diet consists of browse & lichen which is very high in protein.

As I have evolved as a hunter, I started passing on 3.5 yr old bucks in pursuit of more mature 4-5 year olds. Getting a buck to 4.5 yr old in our area is very hard given the hunting pressure. I have only experience one buck on our property that was 6.5 t0 7.5 year old. In order to harvest a 4.5 + yr old, you have to be willing to either eat tag soup or take a doe. I have lots of recipes for tag soup to share if you are interested. :emoji_wink:

End of the day put in perspective the type of deer you have and most importantly, enjoy the hunt. If you really want to shoot a big trophy class buck, you can always travel to areas where they can be found.
 

bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
One of the drivers for northern whitetails to get big, is the drive to eat more as they go from summer to winter. They need to put on weight as ag sources start to disappear and they have to rely on different food sources to survive the winters. You don't have that cycle in your area and a very large buck may struggle in the opposite effect of your heat...

As I have evolved as a hunter, I started passing on 3.5 yr old bucks in pursuit of more mature 4-5 year olds. Getting a buck to 4.5 yr old in our area is very hard given the hunting pressure. I have only experience one buck on our property that was 6.5 t0 7.5 year old....

End of the day put in perspective the type of deer you have and most importantly, enjoy the hunt. If you really want to shoot a big trophy class buck, you can always travel to areas where they can be found.
Tree Spud, if my latest posts seemed a bit defensive, they sure weren't intended to be. To the contrary, the primary drive for sharing is that I find SOME of our bucks far more difficult to age on the hoof than others. That has made some shot decisions real tough in the stand, though I've definitely stayed away from 2.5s, and moved from initially taking some 3.5s to aiming for 4.5 as I've been able to ID / follow certain bucks since moving to my place in 2014. Stranger bucks are the tough ones to age, since per the original post and follow-up ones some bucks keep the same general body shape and horns from 3.5 until declining.

And Bergmann's rule ABSOLUTELY comes into play down our way! Per Florida's Wildlife Commission, "White-tailed deer vary in size depending on the habitat. Adult male deer in Florida average 115 pounds, but can reach 190 pounds or more in North Florida. The smaller females average 90 pounds with larger females weighing 120 pounds or more."

The buck I harvested that scored in the 130s weighed only about 160 lbs, with his smaller body size making his horns look all the more impressive from the stand. The two biggest bodied bucks I've taken only scored around 120 but were much closer to the 200 lb mark. I was born and raised in the foothills of the Carolinas and there the same age class bucks likely would have ranged between 215 to 230.

I sure understand folks who travel for true record book trophies, but never had that itch to date. To the contrary I'm much more interested in working with neighbors to see what we can do over the years to keep our lands nice as Florida goes. That, and crazy busy as my wife and I run a business that finds us generally taking only one week of vacation a year, and those often to business related conferences. I fished more than I hunted in my youth, and pinch myself over our nice freshwater and saltwater fishing, so honestly see the relatively nice (Florida wise) deer as gravy on top. Didnt deer hunt a single time between my mid-20s and mid-40s and bought my place only thinking about fishing the pond on it... until I saw this buck in 2014 shortly after moving to our current home... and thought, "Maybe I should get back into deer hunting!"

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bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
As for the tag soup, good chance I'll need the recipes. DO have ONE single obviously older stranger buck that showed up a week or so ago, but he's been doing doe checks just before and after daylight and checking days apart during his travels. Going to take some luck to cross paths with him. If I don't, have fair amount of meat stored up due to double digit hogs harvested the past few years so I'll be happy to just shoot the deer I see with "Canon" versus cannon.
 

weekender21

5 year old buck +
I only have four years of antler data on our place in western NC but we definitely see a jump from three to four. An average three year old is maybe 90-100 inches. The more mature bucks are typically 110-120 with an occasional bigger buck. 130+ is a rare animal.

There are outliers with younger looking deer in the 120”+ range. It’s not common to have history with our bucks so it’s hard to watch the progression.


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SwampCat

5 year old buck +
Average mature bucks in our area (4 or 5 yr old) will be between 125 and 130. Plenty will never break 120. Maybe one in ten mature buck will be 150/160. For ever deer 4 yr old and older, there will be maybe five younger bucks. For us in antler quality compromised areas, We have to have sheer numbers of bucks, also. Not like Kentucky or Iowa where a three yr old buck is going to be the same size as our average mature buck. Most of us dont have enough property to have fifty bucks running around, so it falls back to several years between truly top end deer.

We, like bigbendmarine, have to lower our standards a little.
 

bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
SwampCat, sounds EXTREMELY similar to my southern neck of the woods! Thankfully the neighbors I've got don't have the "It's brown, it's down" mentality so most bucks harvested are at least 3.5 and close to 120 or a bit above.

And to the point of keeping sheer number of bucks, that's EXACTLY what we've done, whereas with does the plantations and owners of large enough parcels use ag permits to primarily harvest does so that the total population doesn't get too out of control. One negative consequence of having a surplus of bucks is that the bucks seem to pretty much be sparring near constantly during the entire rutting season so a large percentage of bucks including the nice ones have busted-up racks unless harvested very early in the season.
 
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Howboutthemdawgs

5 year old buck +
Average mature bucks in our area (4 or 5 yr old) will be between 125 and 130. Plenty will never break 120. Maybe one in ten mature buck will be 150/160. For ever deer 4 yr old and older, there will be maybe five younger bucks. For us in antler quality compromised areas, We have to have sheer numbers of bucks, also. Not like Kentucky or Iowa where a three yr old buck is going to be the same size as our average mature buck. Most of us dont have enough property to have fifty bucks running around, so it falls back to several years between truly top end deer.

We, like bigbendmarine, have to lower our standards a little.
Agreed which is a bummer that more neighbors don’t/won’t get on board with management objectives. When you have real world evidence such as that presented by Craig Harper and Marcus Lashely, of properties in areas that are thought of to be below average (central nc east tn mtn and fort Bragg) producing high scoring bucks it shows it can be done almost anywhere. The problem is it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Hunters get in a historically low quality area and they say well that is a good deer for my area and bam it’s dead. Or the opposite happens, they aren’t shooting a 115” deer in Illinois because of the possibilities.
I do feel a little bit of a shift with the cost of land booming everywhere. People are not wanting to pay 4-5000/acre to shoot 4 points and basket 8’s. So if any good may come from that, maybe higher quality deer is a byproduct. On the converse, land is getting subdivided like crazy because of the cost and the guy with 40 acres doesn’t think he would be wise to pass because the chances of that deer hanging around are slim and none.
 

SwampCat

5 year old buck +
Agreed which is a bummer that more neighbors don’t/won’t get on board with management objectives. When you have real world evidence such as that presented by Craig Harper and Marcus Lashely, of properties in areas that are thought of to be below average (central nc east tn mtn and fort Bragg) producing high scoring bucks it shows it can be done almost anywhere. The problem is it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Hunters get in a historically low quality area and they say well that is a good deer for my area and bam it’s dead. Or the opposite happens, they aren’t shooting a 115” deer in Illinois because of the possibilities.
I do feel a little bit of a shift with the cost of land booming everywhere. People are not wanting to pay 4-5000/acre to shoot 4 points and basket 8’s. So if any good may come from that, maybe higher quality deer is a byproduct. On the converse, land is getting subdivided like crazy because of the cost and the guy with 40 acres doesn’t think he would be wise to pass because the chances of that deer hanging around are slim and none.
And even at that , antler quality is improving in a lot of areas - maybe areas within areas. Harvested Antler sizes in my area over the last fifteen years are double what they were in the previous 15 years. Obviously, the next fifteen years wont see as big a gain, as we are probably nearing the upper end of our realistic antler size. If it takes one out of ten of our mature bucks to make 150”, you cant realistically expect hunters to pass 95% of the bucks in hopes of killing a 150” deer every five years.

Most hunters like a big set of antlers. But a lot of hunters like to eat deer meat, they like the excitement of killing a deer, they like the camaraderie around the meat pole, there is satisfaction in making your own jerky and sausage - and including does, there just are enough deer to go around - let alone deer with big antlers.

And then there is CWD.
 

bigbendmarine

5 year old buck +
Most hunters like a big set of antlers. But a lot of hunters like to eat deer meat, they like the excitement of killing a deer, they like the camaraderie around the meat pole, there is satisfaction in making your own jerky and sausage...
Amen. I was one of three boys when I was growing up, and if I had three sons that ate like us I guarantee I'd be harvesting more deer and less concerned over nice horns. I don't think my wife and daughter combined eat 1/3 what I alone ate as a teen boy. My brothers and I could put it away for sure and certain.
 

Nightvision

5 year old buck +
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Nightvision

5 year old buck +
I’m in Dooly county Georgia which is a great county in middle Georgia for deer hunting. Heavy ag and was the first county in the country to have quality buck regulations. Here are pics of two deer from our lease. One is a stud and the other is imo truly a cull.

We have lots of deer that will go in the 130s and not uncommon to see some 150s or at least get a trail cam photo of them. 160s happen but that is where they start getting a lot more scarce.
 

Nightvision

5 year old buck +
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Nightvision

5 year old buck +
Since we all love pics, here’s a few of the ones I was after but like most years, they eluded me.
 
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