A fascinating new scientific study dispels a widely held assumption among hunters and biologists alike that older, dominant male whitetail deer generally prevail in the breeding process and contribute overwhelmingly to any given herd’s overall genetics.
The study, appearing in the August issue of the Journal of Mammology, reveals that bucks of all ages and maturity generally have an equal chance at breeding.
“Male reproductive success was distributed among a large number of males in all populations, with no evidence for highly skewed access to mating for any individual male,” according to the article’s outline abstract.
Six researchers led by Randy DeYoung of Mississippi State University studied deer in three diverse locations: Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi, the King Ranch in Texas and the Noble Foundation Wildlife Unit in Oklahoma.
The DNA-based research performed on a total of 1,219 deer found that 1- to 2-year-old bucks sired a third of the fawns, despite the presence of more mature bucks, resulting in the conclusion that social dominance alone may not lead to reproductive success.
“Ecological and behavioral variables appear to constrain the ability of individual males to monopolize access to females, resulting in a wider distribution of reproductive success than expected based on previous ecological and behavioral studies of whitetail deer,” the study concluded.
In addition to disproving the notion that deer reproductive success is highly skewed toward a small number of mature, dominant bucks, DeYoung’s data may potentially refute recent anti-hunting groups’ contentions that trophy hunting negatively impacts the genetics of big game animal herds in North America.