This past season I had three hunters proudly tell me that they had improved the deer herd on their land by killing spike bucks. Was this trio’s actions an anomaly or is this belief still widespread?

“The ‘once a spike, always a spike’ maxim should be dead, but unfortunately it’s not,” said Lindsay Thomas of the Quality Deer Management Association. “A lot of people believe that a spike will have a spike rack throughout its life, but the research says that’s simply not true. The truth is that in every local deer herd, there are bucks of the same age with average and above and below average antlers.”

Thomas says that if a hunter is seeing a lot of spike yearlings, two remedies should be considered first — and neither of them involves killing the spikes.

“A major reason for seeing a lot of spike bucks may be that nutrition is lacking on a property,” he said. “Fix that problem before worrying about individual deer. Second, determine if the sex ratio is well off. There may be so many does on the property that they cannot be bred at the proper time in the fall, so a lot of late-born fawns are the result.

“Those late-born fawns are at a nutritional disadvantage and often end up as spike yearlings. In this case particularly, killing more bucks just makes the situation worse. You need to protect more yearling bucks.”

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