Presenter: Donnie Frels

Commission Agenda Item No. 11
Recent Research from the Donnie E. Harmel
White-tailed Deer Research Facility on the Kerr Wildlife Management Area
January 2008

I. Executive Summary: Staff will provide results obtained from a research project designed to determine the effects of selection or "culling" based on yearling buck antler development.

II. Discussion: The Donnie E. Harmel White-tailed Deer Research Facility was constructed on the Kerr Wildlife Management Area in 1974 primarily to investigate the effects of genetics and nutrition on antler development in white-tailed deer. Since that time, this 22-acre facility has maintained a pedigreed herd of deer utilized in a series of progressively complex research projects yielding over 3,000 sets of antlers for research purposes.

The objective of this study was to evaluate if it was possible to improve yearling antler quality in subsequent cohorts by selecting yearling sires exhibiting superior antler development under suboptimal nutritional conditions. The ability to control diet allowed for intense selection to be applied to the herd to determine the effects on antler development in male offspring.

From 1991 to 1999, we established 41 different breeding herds consisting of 1 yearling male and 8-16 females producing 217 males surviving to the yearling age class. Each year, we used those 5-6 yearling males exhibiting the best antler production under stressful conditions as herd sires for the next breeding season.

Overall antler quality (points, beam length, spread, basal circumference, and total antler weight) increased significantly throughout the study. These results should provide insights into the effectiveness of selective harvest strategies recommended by TPWD field biologists.