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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We've discussed the 13" inside spread restriction before on this forum, but I wanted to ask a related question based upon something TPWD says on their site.

"Hunters are correct when they say there are some "narrow-rack" older bucks out there. They are also right when they say a portion of them will be protected under this strategy, which is not desirable. We don't claim that this strategy is flawless. We must be mindful of the long-term effects. This strategy will allow hunters to "turn-over" the population. Based on 34 years of solid data from research that was designed to answer these questions, those older "narrow-rack" deer likely were spikes as yearlings. If hunters take advantage of the extra tag, they will reduce the incidence of those older "management bucks" that slip through the cracks. " http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/game_management/deer/antler_restrictions/ According to the above statement based upon 34 years of research data, a yearling whitetail buck should have branched antlers? Or, rather, a yearling WT Buck with spikes will likely turn out to be less than 13" inside once he matures? So based upon all of that, I took this obviously non-yearling spike this morning. His spikes measured 5 3/4" and 7". So is it safe to assume that this guy would always be a spike, nothing but a spike, always a spike?
I have passed on many spikes that were obviously babies with their first set of antlers. But this guy was a bit older than this springs fawns. Anyone else shooting spikes?
 

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I like a 4-point on one side restriction. I can't tell a 12 3/4 spread from 13 1/4.
then for another buck make it any size.
not necessarily in that order.
 

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:) Howdy! Mark: I would have taken that spike too if it came by my stand. That spike is bigger than some 6 or 8 pointers I have seen. Enjoy the meat!
Always, Gene
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks guys. On this same property several years ago I shot a spike that had 8" and 8 1/2" spikes. Must be something in the local genetics about spikes and odd antlered bucks. This property burned during the Tri-county wildfires a few months ago, so it was nice to see some deer in there.
Bugeye, I am the same way when it comes to a close call on antler spread, 12" vs 13" On the Exotic forum I am posting a picture of what I shot at my place in the hill country yesterday around 5:30pm. It was a first for me.
 

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I hunt in E.Texas and it really gauls me to see the number of bucks that are branched antlered and illegal to shoot going by the 13" inside spread regulation. Some of these bucks are two- four years old and still sport these illegal headsets. It would seem to me that these bucks should be culled with these inferior antlers. Many years ago before this rule was initiated I shot a 5- point that I could almost hold the rack in one ha nd and my fingers would almost wrap around the entire headset! That to me is a way inferior buck but was legal back then as I believe the regulation that existed then was at least one branched antler over three inches. Also think they should up the total number of doe days.
We have on trail cameras shots of various bucks that are 8-10 pointers and some would not be legal with the 13" inside spread rule. There is one that we call the "Halo Buck" because he is at least a six point and antlers that reach up above his head on both sides and these antlers have to be 13-14 inches in height and both sides almost bend towards each other to almost form a perfect halo over his head. Yet inside spread would never reach 13"!

So if anyone knows the reason for this 13" inside spread rule please explain why it was initiated.
 

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the person who owns the property should make his own rules.
for public property, any deer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In reading the TP&WD paragraph posted above, I do not find (atleast in my mind) a clearly stated reason at how they arrived at 13". To say that tip to tip the ears on a whitetail are 13" only makes sense if all whitetail are exactly the same size all their life. Have you ever noticed that whitetail can come in various sizes even within the same state?

Their research was done on a WMA. So, I wonder, is there supplemental feed and water going on in the WMA? If so, then how does that effect research when comparing to wild free range whitetail?


Not a great picture, but the deer obviously is not a youngster. His inside spread was 11 1/4"
He was from W. Texas

This one is from E. Texas, illegal today, and measure 11" inside.



In my mind, I can not forsee either deer developing a wider spread. Neither was a 1 1/2 year old deer. The E. Tx deer to me is a cull/management buck all the way if for no other reason than the poorly developed tines.

I am glad that I do not yet have to worry about antler restrictions on my hill country property.
 

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Mark, the Kerr WMA web site has info,or did about deer.
That is where the study was done that led to culling deer.
Like you I had let "fawns with spikes" walk. According to what I read a six month old deer does not have any antler visible past fify yards. Those fawns were spikes,inferior deer that would never be very large.yet would breed.
To sum it up the writer said, "If two spikes come into view shoot the little one first and don't let the other get away. rob
 

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I always thought once a spike always a spike, or inferior deer. Not anymore.

I have seen several first year spikes turn in to some wallhangers in my area north of San Antonio. the reason I know they were spikes is because I have been feeding them since they were spikes and can ID them from markings and facial features, along with the fact that they will come right up to you for green beans, crackers, etc.

One was a 4" spike his first year, by the time he was 3-1/2, 9pt with approximately 18-20" spread. Brow tines were over 8". I could get within 5 feet of him, but he would not let me pet him.

The other had approximately 2" spikes the first year and ended up an 11pt with a 20+ spread at 4-1/2yrs. Tines similar to the 9pt to where you knew they were from the same buck.

After this, I will normally let a spike go the first year. If hes' a spike the next, then i take him.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
HL, one morning this weekend I was watching 6 deer at the feeder (hill country). 4 does and 2 bucks. Both bucks sported spikes. The noticable larger buck had spikes that appeared to be 3" on one side and a bit longer on the other. The much smaller bodied deer sported spikes about an inch long, both sides. I let both of them walk for the same reason you stated above. The buck in my post above that is in the bed of the Rhino was the heaviest deer I've ever taken, fat, older buck, still not 13". Fortunately many counties do not have the antler restriction, at least not yeat.
 

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The 13-inch restriction, while not perfect, does indeed work. If nothing else, it allows bucks to at least gain some age. In my county (Lavaca), I did not shoot a buck on our farm from 1981 through 2006 because I would not pull the trigger on spindly little 1.5 and the rare 2.5 year-old deer -- and that's all that you would ever see. And if you found a buck that weighed more than 100 pounds, he was a giant...

Today, all of this has changed.

The ruling went into effect here 9 years ago, and the results are obvious. You can even look back at the area buck contests. Way back when, a deer scoring 90 would often win the contest. Today, it takes at least 160 just to break into the top 5 or 10.

Again, the ruling is not perfect. There was a 15" tall, 8-inch-wide 4-pointer that really needed to go but was not legal -- and he had the same configuration for 2 years (was 4.5 years old the last time I saw him). So, yes, the ruling does have some drawbacks, but the advantages far outweigh the negatives --- and it was something that was desperately needed in this part of the state.

Also, nutrition and range condiitons play a large role -- nearly as much so as genetics. Long ago, spikes were pretty much all any of the 1.5 year-old bucks would be. But since many have started feeding protein instead of corn, I have not seen a 1.5 year-old deer that was a spike for a couple seasons now. All are little 6,7 or 8-pointers.

As to judging width/spread being "difficult," I do not find that to be the case and find that I am generally within 1/4" or so of the actual inside spread. You simply have to learn the appropriate angles to gauge them at and pay attention to other factors as well. Too many hunters get in a hurry. Instead of studying them for a while through binocs or a spotting scope, they are too busy trying to push the safety off and fire a shot. That's when mistakes get made and fines get paid, but I have no sympathy in that regard as judging the spread is a matter of discipline and exercising patience. I simply can't comprehend how someone could shoot an 8 or 9-inch-wide deer and at some point believe it to be legal (it HAS happened in this county).

Here are bucks I took from 2008, 2009 and this season. And again, this is in a county not known for antler growth (and taken during an awful drought that's gone on for several years now):







 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Now those are some nice looking bucks. Congrats. Now, based upon the logic of the 13" inside spread, allowing deer to get some age on them, there would be similar or better results to simply create a moratorium on all WT bucks for a period of 3 to 4 years or more.

I agree with you that properly estimating spread is a learned skill.

Gauging the spread would be much easier in more open country depicted in your wonderful photos. It is at my hill country property, but not in deep E. Tx where there are no open fields, and only small shooting lanes. Hunters there must make a quick decision because they tend to have only seconds to view a deer.

My practice now is when in doubt, let the deer walk. Not sure how the local Game Wardens are, but a miscalculation by 1/4" could result in a fine for the violation. I would hope not, but it could, probably has.

Forget to say, I love those rifles of yours. Could you post the inside spread on those bucks in your photos?
 

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I'd have to look and double-check my memory tonight, but I think the inside spreads, in the order that they appear, were 16.5, 13.75 and right at 15 (only did a cursory measurement on this year's buck, but my twin boys tell me it's right at 15 or so).

You are absolutely right about judging deer in thick cover: it can be tough.

The terrain here is not all that open but has some more open areas. This is in the post oak savannah region, where there are lots of heavy oak motts, youpon, briars and assorted undergrowth, huisaches and mesquite. Many of the creek and river bottoms are loaded with willows, pecan bottoms and -- unfortunately -- McCartney rose hedges (an AWFUL scourge!).
 

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I forgot to add: I like to try and watch deer throughout the year and generally try and hunt a specific buck. In '09, that buck first showed himself mid-October, and I was able to age him and knew he was on the decline. The one good look I got of him allowed me to estimate him at around 13.5". A game cam photo I was lucky enough to get confirmed my thinking on the spread, so I figured if I saw him during the season, he needed to go (really wanted a tall 8 that I had seen, but I had to give consideration to the overall benefit of the herd. Turns out, I never saw that big 8 during the season anyway...)

Game cam shot of the '09 buck:



The buck from this year was not planned (full post in the TC Single SHot Rifles forum). He was being whipped up on pretty good by the buck I had hoped to take and was limping very badly. Coyotes or hogs would have ripped him apart during the night, and I couldn't stand the thought of that. I'll admit running the crosshairs over the vitals of the bigger buck, but I had to do the right thing, and that was to take out this guy as he was limping very badly -- to the point his chest was dipping half-ways to the ground with each step he took.

Here is a game cam shot of the buck he was losing to. This photo is from last year. This year, he has the same configuration but has lots more mass.

 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Nice game cam pics. That is an excellent way to scout and become familiar with the deer in the area. I shot a 9pt 3 seasons back that had been beat up pretty good. His neck and right shoulder were scabbed over and he had a bad limp you could notice from a mile away. Wish the buck that beat him up had come by.
 

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Just got back from E.Texas hunt. Had to let several bucks walk due to antler restrictions! Some of these bucks were breeding and some of the racks were pretty inferior. Doe days were the only time we got any shots.
 

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Wish we had doe days here. The ratio is starting to get well out of hand. In this county (Lavaca), you can only take doe during archery season. You can join a co-op and get tags, but those are not the best answer for good management in areas where there are lots of smaller properties. In many instances, the survey numbers are rehashing/recounting the same deer. In those cases, if such circumstances are not given proper consideration, too many doe tags are issued.
 

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Even with the doe days, the area I was hunting in E.Texas is still over run with does. More doe days are needed, I could have shot a pickup load of does after the doe days were over! As mentioned bucks that I saw were chasing does, as many of the bucks were sporting small and some inferior racks the gene pool is not being helped to develop large legal racked bucks. Of course it helps to have the right minerals in the soil to help develop healthy racks, so next year will be placing specific mineral blocks througoui the hunting area along with the feeders and food plots!
 

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The 16 to 20 percent protein pellets really do help -- and as high as corn is, there's now virtually no difference in the price between them. The quick-draw-type blocks with high protein percentages are good, too, and the bucks really seem to love the molasses content. My luck with food plots has not been all that great recently. Between stretches of drought, hogs rooting, turkeys scratching out the seeds and various neighboring cattle busting down fences, my food plots have looked pitiful the past 3-4 years.
 
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