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Non-Typical Hunter

Drought = small racks?

Tue, October 22, 2013

I’ve been tracking a few monsters in the last couple of years, some of which are fairly young and have many years ahead of them before going down hill. After reviewing my latest trail camera pictures, I’ve noticed several of them have not grown at all this year. Much to my surprise, I’ve also spoken with several individuals across the state who are getting the same results on their cameras too!

After speaking with several other people regarding this phenomenon, someone suggested that this year’s drought may have something to do with it. Looking back, last year we also experienced a drought but I din’t notice any shrinkage at all. Could 2 years of drought have an effect on them?

In my research, it’s been about a draw. Some believe a dry year can affect antler growth an an equal amount say; not so. So I researched a little deeper and basically, they’re both correct! That answer pretty much takes us back to the starting point.

It appears, stress and nutrition are leading causes of growth control for whitetail antlers, in addition to body weight and their general health. Animals that have endured months of stressful living, have grown smaller body weights and antlers too! Add the lack of water to the equation, and you’ll have a stressful situation in most cases. I must point out that many animals have adjusted to drought-like conditions and have learned to live and manage stressful situations without too much damage to their body. So I would assume, it depends on the animal itself!

Anyone else seeing smaller than expected antler growth in your areas? I would love to know!

Off the subject, I’ve been reviewing more and more products recently and have even added outdoor services to my reviews. Most are good and a few are, well, less than good. I even reviewed an outfitter this month and was pleasantly surprised. This is something I have never done before. I even stuck a doe on video from the ground while I was there. I never expected to happen like it did because I was just setting up and didn’t even have a chance to get my face mask on before 2 does spotted me while I was getting situated. I didn’t have a chance to turn the camera into her, but I stuck her anyway and the camera caught her running with my arrow in her brisket. Nothing like a head-on shot while she was trying to figure out what I was! If you listen very carefully in the first 10 seconds of the video, you can hear her blow at me! Here’s the video: Doe from ground.

I know the season is in full swing but it’s always nice knowing there’s more products out there than are worth using and some that aren’t! If you’re interested in one of the few outfitters I would ever recommend here in Illinois, here’s a link to that: Outfitter.

I’ve got some big heads in my studio coming in already, so the action is getting started! Good luck out there and hunt hard!!!


I can’t attest to antler size, but I did notice that late summer vegetation is not nearly as lush as it has been in past years.

Posted by riverrat47 on October 22

Drought years also produce more antler breakage. 2001 and last year were real bad.

Posted by selfinflicted on October 22

I’ve noticed most of the does in my area only have 1 fawn when in years past most had 2 fawns or on rare occasion 3.

Posted by buckbull on October 22

I have a hard time believeing that this year’s “drought” has much to do with antler size. In Central Illinois we are seeing corn and soybean yields much higher than last year, giving deer more to eat. Record rains in the spring and into the early summer gave whitetails twice the vegetation we saw last year. By the time the rains stopped deer had built themselves back up from Rut. Drought varies from place to place in Illinois, I realize that. However, we see jumps in antler size depending on animal and age. Deer are survivors, if there isn’t any food in one area, they will move to the next to find it. My biggest problem this year has been EHD, lets be happy they don’t have as big of racks as expected rather than haveing to find them dead like I have been. :(

Posted by Gohunt88 on October 23

Not sure about rack size, but I’ve seen more deer on trail camera pictures that just look less healthy.  Quite a few more deer this year that appear to be very ribby.  Something important to note is that this is the first year I’ve seen the EHD effect in my immediate area.  I think the drought, which caused the EHD outbreak in my area, may have caused the lack of health.  I have one scrappy young buck that just lost his velvet last week.

Posted by Treehugger on October 23

I will agree 100% with your article on this topic as i have been dealing with the exact same “problem” this year.  This is my 6th year hunting our farm and going into this season i had proof that there should be 6 5.5 year olds this fall if they remained on the farm (based on sheds, pics, etc).  Of those 6 i have had three of them show up so far this year and i would say the most any of these three grew was 10-12” while one appears to have decreased his antler size by 5-10” and the third appears identical to last year as far as scoring goes.  These are documented deer with sheds, pictures, and at least two years of history on our managed farm.  I think between two drought years and possibly some EHD the older, more mature bucks on the farm have not had the health to grow the racks they potentially should have at 5.5 years old.

Posted by cschelk2 on October 23

our rack size here has little to do with drought.  We actually are producing banner crops here in my local area.  Seems like we got every 30 percent chance hit an inch.  That said our racks are smaller this year because there are NO 5.5 or older deer due to ehd exterminating them last year.  I would guess and say it got 80 percent plus of our older age class bucks last year.  Im seeing TONS of 3.5s but not a single deer i thought would be older.  First 4.5 i see thats decent is going to be knocked down this year.

Posted by clintharvey on October 24

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