Antlers are an endless source of conversation. A common question is at what age do bucks exhibit a decline in antler size.
Antler development is influenced by age, annual and permanent environmental conditions, the individual’s nutritional state as well as genetics. As a yearling, a buck expresses only 25-30% of his maximum antler potential. At 2 years old, a buck expresses about 60% of his antler growth potential. This increase continues with age until a buck reaches his maximum antler potential around 5-7 years old.
Bucks consuming a less than optimal diet would be expected to reach their maximum antler size at an older age. Once a buck reaches his maximum antler potential, subsequent antler growth is not necessarily smaller. They just won’t be any bigger. And while nutrition does influence antler size, antler size still increases with age even in bucks with low quality diets.
Almost 70% of the adult bucks harvested in Pennsylvania are 2.5 years old. It is unlikely that many reach the age (> 8+ years old) where a decline in antler production is noticeable.
Jeannine Tardiff Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist, Deer & Elk Management Section
Pennsylvania Game Commission