Does hunting select against deer with large antlers?

If every deer hunter wants to bag a buck with a magnificent set of antlers, won’t that eventually select out large-antlered deer? If not, why not?

Only if this action affected the entire breeding population. I suspect, though, that the hunting range is only a fraction of the entire deer range.

Most rednecks (hunters?) I know will shoot at anything they see. It’s just the large antlered ones that they mount.

The vast majority of hunters I know (and I know a lot) hunt for meat, not antlers. The antlers are a nice side benefit, at best.

By the time the antlers grow that large, it’s been a few years. Plenty of time to breed more antler growers.

Unlikely, selection works on populations, so local hunting should play little effect. Also, where hunting is regulated, the goal is not to hunt every deer with large antlers, as they are recognized to be the stronger males. So some of the adult males are culled, but not all.

First of all, your premise that “every deer hunter wants to bag a buck with a magnificent set of antlers” is incorrect.

Those hunting primarily for food purposes don’t really care much about the antlers. Sure, they might be an interesting addition along with the hide or whatever but they aren’t the primary goal. In fact, they might even apply for a “doe” license, which means they can take only those deer without antlers. So those folks aren’t selecting for any size of antlers.

Also, the buck doesn’t have to survive to see the fawn(s) born. If the deer with the largest antlers manage to impregnate the most does prior to being turned into steaks and sausage selection will still be working for rather than against large antlers.

This is more of a General Question than a Great Debate.
Off it goes.

As noted, above, large antlers are more of a bonus than a goal. Anecdotally, I have never heard a hunter (nor heard of a hunter) who declared that he or she passed up a shot at a deer in order to wait for one with a larger rack. The selection process proposed does not appear to actually be in operation.

Quite a few guys actually do pass on small antlers but they are still a very small percentage of the hunters. I know guys who will start scouting an area a year in advance to try and pattern out some of the big bucks. They have a pretty high success ratio in kills.

Game farms routinely select and breed for large antlers. Hard to tell how many mounts we see come from thse game farms, nobody likes to admit to it.

Anecdotally I have. If you only have a tag for one deer you want it to be the best one you can get and you don’t want the outing to be done too soon.

As a matter of selection pressure probably not a big item compared to improved mating prospects so long as size matters to the females. Most males in the wild apparently don’t even make it to three years old and, as running coach notes, the antlers are maxxed out only in the ones who have gotten past that, to between five and seven. So as a general rule the hunters selectively killing big antlered deer are usually killing deer who have already had their season or two to reproduce.

The comments here are completely opposed to what I have experienced. The way we hunt in South Texas is pretty highly selective. First, from a trophy standpoint, we only hunt mature bucks (see the head triangulation chart here for reference). Second, we set limits on the number of bucks that may be taken in a given season. There are also limits/goals for the number of doe and “management bucks” taken per season. See this link for the distinction between a trophy buck and a management buck.

I think the basic thought process that I go through is that I would like to take one deer per season for meat. I would ideally like this to be a trophy buck. However, if I am looking for a trophy buck I would like it to generally exceed the quality of what I have taken in previous years (or have some unique or cool feature). I would absolutely not shoot an immature trophy buck. The lease I hunt on does not permit harvesting trophy bucks younger than 6 years old. If I am unsuccessful, I would then look to take either a doe or a management buck.

big rack meat is good for jerky.

This is why I went out of my way not to use the term “rack” in the OP.

Sadly, I also know hunters who only want to “bag a big buck” for bragging rights. It annoys me to no end. And it’s not just because of their narcissistic attitudes. The deer population is getting out of control here in Ohio, and we really need to focus more on harvesting does, not bucks. (Killing a doe will have more of an impact on decreasing the deer population vs. killing a buck.)

Large antlers, while sometimes a fluke of great nourishment and luck of not being shot young, are also bred and fed for by the very hunters you are referring to.
Wildlife management has been a very popular pastime here in Texas.
My company has access to a ranch where large horns are very visible every single day. The deer on the ranch are, by and large, wild but they are well fed (corn/protein) and left to themselves. Until a hunter comes to shoot them.

So, no, large horns are in no danger of vanishing.

To add to this, doe meat is much preferred over buck meat as it tends to be less gamey. Most hunters know this and will take a doe or 2 a year for food purposes. Bucks tend to be taken for the antlers.

In a lot of places more deer are killed by cars than by hunters, but that certainly doesn’t seem to be selecting for the “ability to cross the highway” gene.

From what I’ve read about this in the past, human hunting does select for smaller or deformed antlers & horns, as well as smaller, less healthy-looking animals in general.

I found an article talking about it.