Along with the desire to balance buck to doe sex ratios by harvesting an adequate number of does, most hunters are also passing young bucks today more than ever. While this is a good thing, some hunters are still not ready to take that next step and pass young bucks. As deer biologists and other natural resource professionals are strongly encouraging hunters to take does for the freezer and pass young bucks, some hunters are using the term “cull” as justification to harvest a young, small-racked buck. Bottom line, if hunters want to harvest any-age bucks, they should do so because they want to, not because they’ve somehow been led to believe they are manipulating “genetics”. Genetics are complicated, especially when it comes to wild animals and their genotypic makeup is extremely variable and largely misunderstood. In fact, many small-racked bucks may carry genes for large antlers and even though they may not express them, this does not mean their sons or grandsons will not. Some small-racked bucks may sire world-class sons or vice-versa. Also, hunters should remember that a buck’s mother provides half of his genes and there is no way to “cull” does based on antler size or shape.
Another set of factors hunters do not consider is that most bucks with small or miss-matched side to side antlers are exhibiting those traits due to, but not limited to, herd density/dynamics issues, environmental constraints, or from some form of physical injury. These are normally caused from an antler pedicle injury, bodily injury, or other environmental factors which have nothing to do with genetics. Obviously these injury or environmentally-induced antler characteristics will not be passed down to their offspring. In other words, if you lose part of an ear during a boxing match, this trait won’t be passed on to your children as it has nothing to do with genetics.