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Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? #8964139 11/29/23 10:08 PM
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At what age do you think a deer will achieve his best set of antlers? I like to say “max rack”.
I know there are many many variables but give me your best shot. Try to compare apples to apples by assuming even amounts of rainfall from year to year.
I’m mostly curious about free ranging NON protein fed deer, but please give whatever info you are experienced with. If it’s a protein fed situation then say that.


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964144 11/29/23 10:13 PM
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Start to go down year 7.


Originally Posted by unclebubba
Just to make sure that it is done thoroughly, I go both ways.

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964154 11/29/23 10:29 PM
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6 max out or in exceptional range conditions 7 can be even better.


lf the saying "Liar, Liar your pants on fire" were true
Mainstream news might be fun to watch
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: kmon11] #8964161 11/29/23 10:38 PM
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Originally Posted by kmon11
6 max out or in exceptional range conditions 7 can be even better.

Agree, Year 6 on avg., past that more declining than rising on avg.

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964164 11/29/23 10:42 PM
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Along with assuming consistent average rainfall, also assume consistent quality range conditions.
Trying to take out environmental factors and just evaluating what the deer is capable of under like circumstances.


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964177 11/29/23 10:51 PM
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THIS article follows a buck from 1.5 until his natural death at 12.5. Good data.


Originally Posted by unclebubba
Just to make sure that it is done thoroughly, I go both ways.

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964180 11/29/23 11:02 PM
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I have hunted the place I hunt now since 2007. Our deer see the biggest jump in score from age 3.5 to 4.5. After 4.5 the racks see minimal gain even in really wet years. In dry years I have even seen them drop below what they were at 4.5. So for our herd I say our deer max out at 4.5 and get better or worse depending on range conditions every year after that. Last year our 4 year old racks looked more like 3 year olds due to the range conditions so I didnt even shoot a deer hoping they would rebound at age 5. Sadly only one of those deer lived to see 5 years old this year and he went from a very average 4 year old 9 point to a nice 5 year old 11 point this year so I took him with my bow.

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964211 11/29/23 11:49 PM
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Have seen best racks anywhere from 5.5 to 7.5 and I believe there are too many factors to predict when a deer will have his best year. I’ve seen bucks have their best years in poor range conditions and they’re worst in good range conditions. I think range conditions are a better predictor for the antler growth at the aggregate herd level rather than the individual level

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964399 11/30/23 05:04 AM
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Yeah, if you take out the environmental factors and just go by growrh thru the ages, the max frowth will be between 7-8yo on average, with some deer continuing to put on antler “score” into 10 years.


But….how can you take away environmental factors when that is exactly what determines a deers phenotypic expression? Range conditions, nutrition, stress (both predator and rut stress being the biggest players, but also climate stress added in as well) all play such huge roles.

It is an interesting concept to discuss max antlers at what age, but no deer is ever living in the situation where you can ignore environmental factors. Kind of like asking what electric vehicle gets the best mile range, when we all know the testing range conditions are never even remotely close to approximating the real driving conditions and the real mile range one gets from one of those EVs.

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964439 11/30/23 12:39 PM
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Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964516 11/30/23 02:25 PM
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I didn’t mean to say ”take out” environmental factors. I’m just assuming average environmental factors. I do want to assume a property with above average natural habitat.
I’m looking at an age class of bucks that have been through life in average conditions and now they are in their prime.
At what max age have you seen their best and what age will be one too many?


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964600 11/30/23 04:00 PM
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For what age will be one too many - we don't pass on 7.5 if we get the opportunity to kill them then. Mortality seems to increase dramatically at that point

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: Double AC] #8964639 11/30/23 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Double AC
For what age will be one too many - we don't pass on 7.5 if we get the opportunity to kill them then. Mortality seems to increase dramatically at that point

Double, good point on natural mortality. Everyone can/should/will make their own decisions on when they think deer will die by either bullet or nature. I’m trying to narrow the focus to just the deer that DO make it to that next year. At what year are they max rack and when is it one year too many? Once again, there’s factors that will cause racks to go up or down year to year but things being equal, what year is the max rack year?


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964698 11/30/23 05:50 PM
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Free range with no protein supplementation I’d say 6 1/2. On a well managed place with unlimited groceries I’d say 8 1/2.

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: SapperTitan] #8964718 11/30/23 06:11 PM
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Originally Posted by SapperTitan
Free range with no protein supplementation I’d say 6 1/2. On a well managed place with unlimited groceries I’d say 8 1/2.

Thanks, Sapp. That is what I have always thought but we have unusually good natural habitat that stays more on an even plane than some country that’s boom or bust with rain. Rain is always big but some mast and woody plants will still be there during hard times.


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964730 11/30/23 06:25 PM
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Galvan doesn’t let trophies go till wildlife mgr pegs videos or photos as being 7. 6 is our minimum trophy age and now. some waiting until 7.

This one wasn’t crap and should’ve been taken prior until he blew up at 7.
[Linked Image]

It doesn’t always work out. Not always sure about age and range conditions play a large factor. One thing is certain, they don’t get bigger once shot.

Last edited by Hudbone; 11/30/23 06:26 PM.
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964756 11/30/23 06:55 PM
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Thanks Hud. Do you have pics of DD before 7yr?


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964845 11/30/23 09:11 PM
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We feed protein. We manipulate the browse with herbicide and fire. Habitat is above average. Average annual rainfall is 42”. The population hovers right around carrying capacity. 7.5 is where the majority peak. Somewhere from age
5 1/2 to 7 1/2 many do have a down year that they bounce back from.

Last edited by Smokey Bear; 11/30/23 09:13 PM.

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Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: Smokey Bear] #8964884 11/30/23 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Smokey Bear
We feed protein. We manipulate the browse with herbicide and fire. Habitat is above average. Average annual rainfall is 42”. The population hovers right around carrying capacity. 7.5 is where the majority peak. Somewhere from age
5 1/2 to 7 1/2 many do have a down year that they bounce back from.

Smokey is a man that lives it. No copy paste for him.
Thanks for that excellent insight. 👍
I wonder with the population control, habitat work and good natural habitat, if you didn’t feed protein would they still peak at 7. That’s kind of the end game on this thread for me.

Last edited by freerange; 11/30/23 09:58 PM.

At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964888 11/30/23 10:18 PM
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Depends entirely on the property. On well fed and well managed properties, 7 years old is when they want to harvest them.


On another ranch 60 miles away, they may have a hard time carrying a deer past 5 years old. We had a hard time getting a deer past that...i passed on a bunch of 5 year olds trying to get them to 6 and we never saw them again.


I've seen deer be their best at 4 years old and other times their best at 7. Its really a case by case basis with a variety of factors coming into play.


For it is not the quarry that we truly seek, but the adventure.
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964893 11/30/23 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by freerange
Originally Posted by Smokey Bear
We feed protein. We manipulate the browse with herbicide and fire. Habitat is above average. Average annual rainfall is 42”. The population hovers right around carrying capacity. 7.5 is where the majority peak. Somewhere from age
5 1/2 to 7 1/2 many do have a down year that they bounce back from.

Smokey is a man that lives it. No copy paste for him.
Thanks for that excellent insight. 👍
I wonder with the population control, habitat work and good natural habitat, if you didn’t feed protein would they still peak at 7. That’s kind of the end game on this thread for me.


My gut says age would not change. Protein feeding shines where numbers exceed carrying capacity and in marginal habitat where the deer, by necessity, subsist on lower quality forage. That is not the case where I do the bulk of my hunting. What the supplemental protein stations does best is make it very simple to inventory all the bucks that live on a large tract at night in a relatively small percentage of the property. For that reason alone it is very unlikely the group I hunt with will abandon their feeding program. Genetics and age are the main determining factors on producing big deer. Protein is not the magic it is made out to be. The scrubs live at the protein feeders alongside the deer that get big. The scrubs still don’t get big…


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Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: Smokey Bear] #8964897 11/30/23 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Smokey Bear
Originally Posted by freerange
Originally Posted by Smokey Bear
We feed protein. We manipulate the browse with herbicide and fire. Habitat is above average. Average annual rainfall is 42”. The population hovers right around carrying capacity. 7.5 is where the majority peak. Somewhere from age
5 1/2 to 7 1/2 many do have a down year that they bounce back from.

Smokey is a man that lives it. No copy paste for him.
Thanks for that excellent insight. 👍
I wonder with the population control, habitat work and good natural habitat, if you didn’t feed protein would they still peak at 7. That’s kind of the end game on this thread for me.


My gut says age would not change. Protein feeding shines where numbers exceed carrying capacity and in marginal habitat where the deer, by necessity, subsist on lower quality forage. That is not the case where I do the bulk of my hunting. What the supplemental protein stations does best is make it very simple to inventory all the bucks that live on a large tract at night in a relatively small percentage of the property. For that reason alone it is very unlikely the group I hunt with will abandon their feeding program. Genetics and age are the main determining factors on producing big deer. Protein is not the magic it is made out to be. The scrubs live at the protein feeders alongside the deer that get big. The scrubs still don’t get big…



Very true... it wont change their genetics... imo it just gives the deer that are capable of growing to large sizes the best chance of doing so by taking the stress of finding or fighting over food away. The years that mother nature is a bit harsh for plant growth is when it shows the most

Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: Smokey Bear] #8964904 11/30/23 10:50 PM
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its higher in the south then in the north.

Big different in STX vs Kansas vs Michigan

Free to answer your question even if your aren't supplementing with protein, there is still a large different in other supplemental influence like ag: alfalfa, soybeans etc


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Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: BOBO the Clown] #8964923 11/30/23 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by BOBO the Clown
its higher in the south then in the north.

Big different in STX vs Kansas vs Michigan

Free to answer your question even if your aren't supplementing with protein, there is still a large different in other supplemental influence like ag: alfalfa, soybeans etc

Assume no ag and assume Tx and Okla.


At some point in life its time to quit chasing the pot of gold and just enjoy the rainbow. FR
Keep your gratitude higher than your expectations. RWH
Re: Max rack… Deer age for max antler growth..? [Re: freerange] #8964936 11/30/23 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by freerange
Originally Posted by BOBO the Clown
its higher in the south then in the north.

Big different in STX vs Kansas vs Michigan

Free to answer your question even if your aren't supplementing with protein, there is still a large different in other supplemental influence like ag: alfalfa, soybeans etc

Assume no ag and assume Tx and Okla.


All my Oklahoma management is either panhandle(irrelevant) or North east’ish along KS border. I can tell you my biggest jumps were from 4.5 -5.5 as a % and most still grew most years into 7.5. 7.5 seemed to be more susceptible to big swings via mother nature, they also has least amount of growth and where more susceptible to EHD and natural mortality as they really started being pushed around.

Before I sold my part, we had dramatically increased buck herd age in general, but still kept about same densities. We really focused on doe harvest and 6.5 or better on bucks. We did start supplemental with bag protein last 2 years I had it but compared to me tilling under coastal and putting in Alfalfa and pulling corn/wheat and moving to soybeans its was minimal. Ag made carry bucks another 1-2 years much easier. With out it wouldnt be worth even thinking 7.5 and 6.5 might been marginal growth to even consider it IMO


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