3 point muledeer genetics

Jimss

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I've spent quite a bit of time in a limited muledeer unit in Wyoming the past 15 years. One thing that stands out is it is plagued with "3-pt-itis." After the hunting season I returned to the unit and saw approximately 50 3x4 bucks and only 1 true 4x4 buck. Some of these were really big 3x3's. I've noticed the same trend every year in the unit for the past century!

I'm sure the few nice 4x4's that exist plus biggest 3x3's are likely the brunt of the harvest each year. It currently takes 11 to max pref pts to draw this unit. I am certain a lot of guys that wait years and years to draw this tag are sorely disappointed. There are a few truly giant bucks available in the unit but they are like finding a needle in a haystack. In years with drought or tough winters whopper bucks are almost nonexistent.

I'm aware that management buck harvest is fairly regular practice for culling poor quality whitetails but unfortunately very few Western states use such practice for managing quality muledeer. The WG&F started a 3 pt or better program in regions G and elsewhere in response to harsh winters and low deer. This was likely imposed to hopefully allow young bucks an additional year to survive and mature. I'm sure this places more pressure on older age class bucks...but that's an entirely different controvercial subject.

Utah has had "management" and "cactus" buck regulations in affect for several years. If you've seen bucks harvested on the Henry's Mtns you are aware of how special a unit this is! In Utah's case I'm sure they are trying to keep the integrity of great genetics in the herd. From those of you that have spent time on Henry's and the Paungasaunt do you believe management tags are effective for culling 3 pt or lousy genetics?

This has really bugged me for years. I'm wondering if a change in regulations and strategies may improve the quality of bucks in units with extremely high densities of mature 3x3 muley bucks?
 
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Zzhartless

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Interesting discussion, I too wonder how my area of the state is affected and could use help with genetics.
 

menhaden_man

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Agree - and curious if any wildlife bios on here have thoughts to offer. I did a quick search on Google scholar and it seems like this topic isn’t well-researched (at least based on a quick look).



 

Axlrod

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Mt. had an area that was 4 pt Mule deer or better for quite a few years. It was a gen. tag area but closed before the rut (unlike the rest of the state). The majority of deer in that are you would see were 3 pts. The F&G discontinued the 4pt requirement a few years ago
 

wytx

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On the ranch we manage we take all the 3 pts we can every year, 8,500+ acres. Hasn't made a difference.
Doe genetics contribute to rack conformation as well as the bucks genetics.
We've been culling for 20+ years.
 

menhaden_man

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On the ranch we manage we take all the 3 pts we can every year, 8,500+ acres. Hasn't made a difference.
Doe genetics contribute to rack conformation as well as the bucks genetics.
We've been culling for 20+ years.
Ranch owners probably much better source of info than bios 🤣!
 

passinggas33

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We are very similar to wytx on our family ranch in Utah (8,000 acres). We’ve been culling for years as well, but we’ve actually started to see a difference. Part of this process though is that we only shoot one “trophy” buck each year. Hopefully allowing the other trophy bucks to spread their genes. I would say this is a process that will take a substantial amount of time. With that being said, I don’t think we will ever eliminate 3 pointers from our gene pool. I don’t know if that is even physically possible with genetic mutation/changes. Our goal though is to minimize their impact on the herd.
 

bdan68

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Does it really matter to the deer population in a particular area if there are lots of deer that are 3x3 or 3x4 or does it only matter to hunters who want a high scoring buck? Do the deer look at other deer and think less of them if they don't have 4 points on each side? Why is it referred to as "inferior genetics?"
 

Macegl

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Culling 3 points only works if you dont "cull" the biggest deer at the same time. How many places leave the biggest bucks to breed does year after year until they die of old age? That is why culling 3 pts rarely works, the largest bucks are still facing the greatest selection pressure.

It always makes me chuckle when a biologist or manager says something to the effect of, "culling doesn't work because half the genes come from the does". Well that doe had a father, and if he was a 3 pt, guess what her genetic makeup is? Bucks breed multiple does, the fastest way to change the genetics of a herd is through the breeding Males, but it doesn't happen in 1 to 2 or even 5 years, it takes generations.

I will guarantee that if you put an antler restriction on a unit that only allowed the harvest of 3 pt bucks or smaller, and left it in place for 20 years, you would turn the genetics of an area around!
 

Macegl

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Does it really matter to the deer population in a particular area if there are lots of deer that are 3x3 or 3x4 or does it only matter to hunters who want a high scoring buck? Do the deer look at other deer and think less of them if they don't have 4 points on each side? Why is it referred to as "inferior genetics?"
To an extent the healthiest bucks have the available resources to put into the largest antlers. So while I don't think does are counting points, antler size can play an indirect role in the overall health of a deer herd.
 

Jaden Bales

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Does it really matter to the deer population in a particular area if there are lots of deer that are 3x3 or 3x4 or does it only matter to hunters who want a high scoring buck? Do the deer look at other deer and think less of them if they don't have 4 points on each side? Why is it referred to as "inferior genetics?"
This was my thought as well. I want to shoot a big high scoring 4 pt as much as the other guy, but not sure it's necessarily an indicator of biological "fitness."

I'm very open to seeing data regarding this that says otherwise.
 

LJ Buck

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We don't understand all the variables the make a big rack in wild deer enough to say culling makes a difference.IMO. Here is an article from some people who have invested countless $$$ into the topic for WT.

 
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Jimss

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You can't eat "horns" right?

Most meat hunters aren't likely going to wait a lifetime to draw a limited tag? The majority of guys that apply for extremely tough draw units are likely interested in harvesting the biggest buck available? Limited units are generally managed for mature bucks with decent headgear plus a high quality experience with fewer hunters in the field.

I'm certain that some hunters would likely think someone is totally whacko passing up a mature 3x3 buck with a 30" spread? To the other extreme, a small % of hunters may eat tag soup before harvesting a giant 3x3.

A whopper 30" spread 3x is likely just as healthy as a mature 26" 4x4. If head gear really doesn't matter for biological fitness should there be a concern that 90% of bucks in a unit are 3x3's? If you are a hunter that waits a lifetime to draw a tag I would think so!

I would expect meat hunters to be excited if offered the opportunity to draw a tag in a quality unit that issues 3x management buck tags? In the Henry's Mtns case there may be the chance of getting a real wall-hanger 3x! It seems like a win-win situation for both meat and trophy hunters to me!
 

Macegl

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We don't understand all the variables the make a big rack in wild deer enough to say culling makes a difference.IMO. Here is an article from some people who have invested countless $$$ into the topic for WT.

While I like this article and this study, it has multiple flaws. 7 years isn't even one generation, and 1.5 and 2.5 year old deer haven't even had time to express genetics to determine if they should be culled or not. I would also like to know if any other hunting was taking place at the time of the study.

I do agree that most of the time nutrition greatly outweighs genetics when it comes to antler size. Some very interesting studies out there on the nutrition of pregnant does and the correlation of antler size of their buck offspring.
 

realunlucky

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You can't eat "horns" right?

Most meat hunters aren't likely going to wait a lifetime to draw a limited tag? The majority of guys that apply for extremely tough draw units are likely interested in harvesting the biggest buck available? Limited units are generally managed for mature bucks with decent headgear plus a high quality experience with fewer hunters in the field.

I'm certain that some hunters would likely think someone is totally whacko passing up a mature 3x3 buck with a 30" spread? To the other extreme, a small % of hunters may eat tag soup before harvesting a giant 3x3.

A whopper 30" spread 3x is likely just as healthy as a mature 26" 4x4. If head gear really doesn't matter for biological fitness should there be a concern that 90% of bucks in a unit are 3x3's? If you are a hunter that waits a lifetime to draw a tag I would think so!

I would expect meat hunters to be excited if offered the opportunity to draw a tag in a quality unit that issues 3x management buck tags? In the Henry's Mtns case there may be the chance of getting a real wall-hanger 3x! It seems like a win-win situation for both meat and trophy hunters to me!
I don't know any biologist that would manage by rack size it's all about age class. The Henry mountains are also managed for age class. The "cull" hunt is a under handed way to meet opportunity requirements of Utahs deer management plan.

Nice to know you'd happily let the average hunter shoot a buck that you felt unworthy of your own tag.

Sent from my moto z3 using Tapatalk
 
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Jimss

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You are right....age class is super important as well as nutrition! The thing that concerns me about the unit in question is the old age class 3x3's are breeding does. There are virtually 0 4x4's in the herd. Is it possible to turn that around? Does it really matter that hunters waiting a lifetime for a tag either eat tag soup or shoot a 3x?
 

Chad E

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You are right....age class is super important as well as nutrition! The thing that concerns me about the unit in question is the old age class 3x3's are breeding does. There are virtually 0 4x4's in the herd. Is it possible to turn that around? Does it really matter that hunters waiting a lifetime for a tag either eat tag soup or shoot a 3x?
What exactly are you trying to "turn around" and what is the concern with mature 3x3 deer doing some breeding. Other than of course you want to shoot higher scoring deer. I always think hunters talking about genetics is such a narrowly focused discussion. Genetic inheritance encompasses a variety of things yet when hunters use the term genetics they are specifically focused 100% on what their antlers look like and often are basing that on an arbitrary scoring system to validate what is big( for instance a big 3x3 could grown more bone on its head and still score less than a 4x4 with less bone). Hunters sometime mask this antler genetic argument using herd health and deer numbers but to my knowledge there is no study out there proving symmetrical 4x4 deer are what creates a healthy robust herd.

A fawn gets half its genetics from its mom. Yet because she doesn't grow antlers we can't pick her out in the herd and wonder about her makeup. Is she a strong old doe that knows all the migration routes knows where to go in the tough winters and can teach her fawns how to avoid predators etc or is she a yearling that miraculously survived based on a relatively easy winter. Because fawns stay with their mother and not their father it would be a solid argument to suggest they are way more important to the herd health but until we start scoring does by ear height, spread and mass we will always point to the bucks.

Antlers are cool and growing a lot of bone suggest good fitness, nutrition, and genetics to but I think we might have confused high scoring symmetrical with the best fitness.
 
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