White-tailed deer hunting in Texas is a big deal, so it should come as no surprise that hunters get real passionate about their hunting down in the Lone Star State. One of the longest, on-going debates continues to be the shooting and/or culling of spike bucks. Spikes are bucks that have only a single, unbranched antler on each side of their head.
Research has found that most spikes are 1.5 year old bucks. So, should spike bucks be shot? It depends. Research has found conflicting results and many experts suggest that even the research may have to be thrown out the window when talking about specific properties. Many agree that yearling (1.5 year old deer) spikes should not be shot.
And this is easy to justify because in dry years a a good number of yearling bucks are spikes. Nutrition does play a role, but those same deer may “rebound” the following year into 8 point bucks. If a land manager wants more mature bucks or has a low buck to doe ratio, then shooting any buck may be a bad idea.
Trying to kill every spike in some years may remove a whole age class or cohort of deer off a property. It may be better to cull bucks in later years when you can see another set of antlers and gather additional “data.”
On the other hand, I’ve looked at the research conducted by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The data shows that some spikes can be good bucks, but as a rule of thumb spike-antlered yearlings are inferior to yearling bucks with branched antlers. TPWD did not conclude that every spike should be shot, but merely that they should be harvested if removing inferior antler traits from a deer herd was desired.
Regardless of how you feel about the spike debate, I think you should weigh both options before jumping off into some kind of shoot-first ask questions later kind of deer management program. I can see situations where shooting spikes would be the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do depending on the long-term management goals of the property owner.
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