Do You Agree Or Disagree?
The white-tailed deer has enabled me to have an incredible career. I’ve hunted and photographed them from Maine to Alberta to Texas. As good as this has been, the highlight of my career has come from raising whitetails to study their behavior and nutritional needs, and being able to photographing them in settings where hunting was not allowed. This has enabled me to see firsthand what can be expected when bucks are allowed to age to maturity.
This gallery shows four New York State bucks I photographed over the course of their lives. None are products of selective breeding, and each represents what I call “real-world bucks” at ages one, two, four, and seven (with seven being the age that I feel most bucks grow their largest antlers).
I didn’t include any bucks I’ve photographed over the years that grossed over the Boone and Crockett minimum of 170 inches, because I don’t believe they are true representatives of what is realistic when it comes to antler growth in the wild. To use a human analogy, a 170-plus buck is equivalent to a 7-foot tall human. The average human male is 5 feet 10 inches in height, so I believe that any white-tailed buck that exceeds 140 inches B&C by age five to seven is a true trophy — any place in North America.
In the majority of cases, it's impossible to know a buck’s antler potential as a yearling...or even at age two, for that matter. By age three, bucks will begin to reveal their potential, but you’ll never know what they can be until they fully mature. At what age is that? Of the near 100 whitetail bucks I’ve raised, the earliest was four, and the oldest nine, with the average being seven years old.
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1 | The Spike: Age 1
This buck was born on a 3,000-acre estate in the heart of New York’s Adirondack Mountains, where no hunting was allowed.
Typical of this region of the country, the buck managed to grow only spike antlers as a yearling.
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2 | The Spike: Age 2
Even at age two, his potential for great antlers was poor.
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3 | The Spike: Age 4
However, thanks to a spike in nutrition, the buck blossomed at age four when his antlers grossed 164 inches.
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4 | The Spike: Age 7
His largest antlers occurred at age 6, topping out at 169 inches gross. At age 7, shown here, his antlers scored 167 gross.
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5 | Mr. Average: Age 1
Born in western New York State, this buck is typical of what New York yearlings sport for antlers.
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6 | Mr. Average: Age 2
By age two, his antlers grossed 110 inches, also quite average for this region of the country.
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7 | Mr. Average: Age 4
Two years later, at age four, he had turned into a classic 10-point, scoring 149 inches gross.
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8 | Mr. Average: Age 7
When this buck hit seven, he grew his largest antlers, grossing 162 iches B&C. What set this buck apart from the others in this gallery is his body size. He not only had nearly perfect antlers but his live body weight was impressive also.
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9 | Forked Horn: Age 1
This New York State buck was not very impressive as a yearling. He was slight of body, with four-point antlers.
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10 | Forked Horn: Age 2
At age two, his body began to fill out, but his antler size didn’t lead one to believe that he’d be a brute once he reached maturity.
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11 | Forked Horn: Age 4
By the time he reached 4½ years of age, he was very similar to Mr. Average in that his antlers were very symmetrical, scoring 148 inches gross.
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12 | Forked Horn: Age 7
At age seven, he grew his largest set of antlers. They scored 164 inches gross B&C, with a live body weight in the 250-pound range.
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13 | Scraggly: Age 1
Many feel that a multi-pointed yearling buck has the best potential of becoming a Boone and Crockett-class animal by age seven. True, some do, but never assume this to be the case.
Over the course of my career, I’ve seen many scraggly-racked yearlings have incredible antlers by age 6 or 7. You just never know what is hidden in their DNA. I’ve included this New York State buck to illustrate my point.
As a yearling, this buck had a very nice 7-point rack.
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14 | Scraggly: Age 2
At age two, he grew into a nearly perfect 8-pointer, giving the impression that he was going to be special.
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15 | Scraggly: Age 4
Two years later, at age four, he grew the largest antlers he would ever grow, scoring 137-inch gross. From that point on, his antlers decreased in size.
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16 | Scraggly: Age 7
At age seven, when most bucks grow their largest antlers, he was an 8-point, scoring 134-inch gross B&C.
Editor's Note: This was originally publish on June 29, 2015.
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