Does Culling Work?

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By: Wade Nolan   bowhunting biologist
By: Wade Nolan bowhunting biologist

I have participated in culling (removing via death, shooting with arrows) inferior bucks on high fence Texas ranches that raise mega bucks. I always figured that it worked…until I read some interesting research. The research was done in conjunction with Texas A & M University. The actual culling occurred on the Comanche Ranch in 2006. It is a ten-year study but some of the data is now flowing in. Researchers used a helicopter gun net to capture 2,113 whitetail bucks. You read that correctly, over 2000 bucks were captured, aged and measured for Boone and Crocket score. The study took place on three separate sections of land.

Area 1. Bucks exceeding the culling criteria were released and the ones that failed the culling threshold were removed from the realm of the living and donated to food banks. The culling criteria was largely based on these limits; Yearlings with less than 6 points, two year olds with less than 8 points, 3 and 4 year old bucks with less than 9 points and bucks 5 years old and older that scored less than 145 B&C.

Area 2. All yearlings and two year olds were released and all older bucks were subjected to the same culling criteria as those in Area 1.

OCTcull-1OCTcull-2

These bucks were culled from a herd on a famous ranch in Texas. My friends and I took 21 cull bucks with bows in 4 days.
These bucks were culled from a herd on a famous ranch in Texas. My friends and I took 21 cull bucks with bows in 4 days.

 

Area 3. This served as a control and all bucks were cataloged and released. The researchers didn’t venture into area 54… Just kidding.

In all 759 bucks were culled. The researchers used the gross B&C score for yearlings born after the culling as the indicator for genetic change.

After 4 years of culling there has been no change in the average B&C score of yearlings. Does this mean that culling inferior bucks doesn’t change the genetic makeup of your deer herd. So far, that seems to be the story but there are other considerations for deer managers. At the price of feed, an owner may not want to feed an inferior buck for 10 years only to end up with an unimpressive buck in the end.

These two bucks are likely from the same gene pool. Was the mega buck on the left a spike when he was 1 ½ years old?
These two bucks are likely from the same gene pool. Was the mega buck on the left a spike when he was 1 ½ years old?

Another consideration is that the does in each area carry a genetic package and it may be impossible to influence the genetics by only culling bucks.

These bucks also resided on the ranch where my team culled 21 bucks. Note the quality of the bucks. It makes it hard to shoot the dinks when they are walking around with theses bruisers.
These bucks also resided on the ranch where my team culled 21 bucks. Note the quality of the bucks. It makes it hard to shoot the dinks when they are walking around with theses bruisers.

This glimpse into interesting whitetail research is brought to you by the science team at Atsko, the makers of Sport-Wash and N-O-D-O-R Spray.

Bowhunting Biologist Wade Nolan has been researching and teaching about whitetails since 1981. He conducts seminars across America. www.wadenolan.com

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