To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. -Theodore Roosevelt

Trophy Points: Big Game Research

Greater Appreciation Through Increased Knowledge

Theodore Roosevelt was a hunter and a naturalist. Knowledge gained from his time afield fueled TR’s zeal for conservation and elevated his appreciation for nature. One of the missions of the Boone and Crockett Club is to disseminate knowledge to ensure that many are passionate about wildlife conservation.

Below is a complete list of the Trophy Points articles that are available.



Population-Level Effects of Chronic Wasting Disease

By David Hewitt (Professional Member, Boone and Crockett Club)

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a malady of the deer family.  This disease is caused by a natural protein in the deer’s body called a prion.  Prion proteins can misfold, giving the protein a different conformation that makes it resistant to being broken down by the body’s natural processes.  Because these abnormal proteins are not metabolized, they accumulate.  Furthermore, the misfolded proteins can cause normal versions of the protein to misfold, setting off a chain reaction.  Problems develop in the deer’s brain because the abnormal proteins accumulate to the point they disrupt nervous-system function.  Deer so afflicted lose coordination, become listless, lose body weight, and eventually die.



Elk and Summer Nutrition

By David Hewitt (Professional Member, Boone and Crockett Club)

The distribution of elk in North America is primarily in mountains, northern parklands, prairies, and high deserts where winter can be severe. Deep snows, poor quality forage, and cold temperatures can be a hardship for elk, especially when elk are concentrated on the winter range. In contrast, summer conditions are much better, with warmer temperatures, green forage, and large areas where elk can roam. These seasonal differences have traditionally caused wildlife biologists to look for problems on the winter range when elk herds underperform.



Density Of Dall's Sheep In Alaska - Effects Of Predator Harvest, Weather, And Carrying Capacity

By Carl D. Mitchell (Wildlife Biologist, retired) and R. Terry Bowyer (Professional Member, Boone and Crockett Club)

Managing game populations subject to predation has long been a topic of research, discussion, and dissension. Predation and predator-prey relationships are complex ecological phenomena involving a multitude of factors, which makes comprehensive conclusions elusive. Dall's sheep, for example, are well-studied, but effects of predation on their population ecology (abundance, density, survival and population growth rates, age and sex ratios) are not clear. We took advantage of a fortunate coincidence to cooperate with private hunters to measure the effects of wolf and coyote harvest on density of Dall's sheep in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST), in eastern Alaska.



Timing and Synchrony of Births in Bighorn Sheep: Implications for Reintroduction and Conservation

By Jericho C. Whiting (Senior Wildlife Biologist, Gonzales-Stoller Surveillance) and R. Terry Bowyer (Professional Member, Boone and Crockett Club)

Populations of bighorn sheep, which once numbered in the thousands, have declined markedly since the latter part of the nineteenth century, and these ungulates face a precarious future. Since the 1920s, considerable money has been spent to restore populations of bighorn sheep into historic ranges. Despite those efforts, from 1923 to 1997, only 41% of translocated populations of bighorn sheep were considered successful. Many factors, including diseases and predation, may impact reestablished populations of bighorns. Little information exists, however, regarding how the behavior of released bighorns influences the success of reintroductions, especially timing and synchrony of births in new environments.



Is Antler Expression Predictable? Effects of Environmental Conditions on Antler Development

By Aaron Foley (Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville) and Randy DeYoung (Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Kingsville)
From a tree-stand, a hunter observes a 10-point, 130-inch Boone and Crockett score white-tailed deer walking through a draw. The hunter grabs his rifle but decides not to shoot because the buck appears to be 4-years old and may become a better trophy the following year. Elsewhere, a hunter observes a 7-point 130 inch 4-year old buck making a scrape. In order to improve "genetics" in the herd, the hunter decides to harvest the buck under the assumption that this male will continue to have below average antler size. The hunters in these 2 scenarios are making opposite assumptions -- antler size of one male will increase and another will remain identical. Which hunter made the correct judgment?



In Search of Receptive Does? What Buck Movements Reveal

By Stephen Webb (Biostatistics Specialist, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation) and Ken Gee (Wildlife Research Specialist, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation)

In an earlier feature (White-tailed Deer Buck Movements During Rut) of Trophy Points, David Hewitt, B&C Professional Member, discussed preliminary data collected by the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute on buck movements in southern Texas using GPS collars. The insights gained by the researchers began to tell a story of the drive that bucks have to breed during rut. As the rut progressed, movements increased, likely as the result of searching for receptive does as well as tending bonds that are formed for ~24 hours when the doe is in heat. Besides the biology gleaned from this study, hunters also should take note of how buck behavior changes during rut to maximize hunting success over a short period when bucks seem to go "crazy!"



Complex Interactions Spell Trouble for Mountain Caribou

By David Hewitt (Boone and Crockett Club Professional Member)
and Eric Rominger (Boone and Crockett Club Professional Member)

Big game species in North America have fascinating survival strategies and few are more interesting than the mountain caribou of the Pacific Northwest. Mountain caribou live in a region that receives snowfall in amounts better measured in feet than inches; 30 or more feet each winter. Unlike most deer species, mountain caribou in these high snowpack ecosystems do not migrate to lower elevations to escape the snow, but instead ascend from early winter habitat in lower elevation cedar-hemlock forests to high elevation spruce-fir forests. The caribou then use the snow to lift them up into the branches of trees where they subsist on a diet comprised entirely of arboreal lichen.


Red deer stag roaring during the rutting season

Franz Vogt's Feeding Experiments Generating Record Antlers

By Valerius Geist, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, The University of Calgary; Boone and Crockett Club Professional Member

"Managing with the rifle", a conception which arose in Europe at the turn of the 20th century, contained the notion that the culling of the "unfit" was a genetic upgrading of the population, a means of eliminating genetic degeneracy of deer. The culling of the unfit by predators was to be replaced by culling by hunters. It was trumpeted as the best way to achieve large trophy antlers.



Elk Have Ecosystem Level Effects

By Kelley M. Steward, Assistant Professor, University of Nevada Reno, and R. Terry Bowyer, Professional Member Boone and Crockett Club

Big game animals have more complex interactions with their environments than many of us realize and large mammals, such as elk, have far reaching effects on ecosystems. Both quality and quantity of food are important for sustaining populations of game animals. As elk populations increase, the amount of forage removed also increases, which affects plant growth and diversity. 



Pronghorn Evolution and Management

By David Hewitt (Boone and Crockett Club Professional Member)

It is an axiom that management for trophy deer, sheep, and goats requires management for older males because antler and horn size increase with age.  For example, antlers continue to increase in size each year until white-tailed deer bucks reach at least 5 years of age, bull elk 7 years of age, and bull moose 10 years of age.  For this reason, wildlife management programs that seek to produce trophy animals emphasize a low harvest rate of males, or a selective harvest that enables males with the most potential for large horns/antlers to mature.



Elk Reproduction Improved with Mature Bulls

By David Hewitt (Boone and Crockett Club Professional Member)

Trophy animals represent many things. For hunters who harvest an exceptional animal, trophies are the culmination of planning, dedication, and hard work. A trophy is a reminder of all the experiences enjoyed, and sometimes tolerated, during a memorable hunting trip. But a trophy is more than that. Large, mature animals are symbols of excellent habitat and sound wildlife management. They are also indicative of a natural age structure that fosters normal reproduction and thus a productive population. So suggests research in Oregon that demonstrates mature bull elk are valuable to the reproductive health of elk herds.



Conservation and Management of Mule and Black-tailed Deer

By Emily Latch (Purdue University and now at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Gene Rhodes (Purdue University), and Jim Heffelfinger ( Arizona Game and Fish Department and Boone and Crockett Professional Member)

Throughout the geographic range of mule deer and their black-tailed subspecies (Odocoileus hemionus), we see a lot of variation in body size, coat color, antler shape, behavior, and other attributes. For instance, mule deer in the southern latitudes are generally smaller than those in the north and those inhabiting the deserts appear lighter in color than those in heavily forested regions. The large degree of physical variation observed in mule deer led early naturalists to collect mule deer from a few geographically distant locations and designate them as different subspecies because they differed slightly from one another.



Consequences of maternal effects on body and antler size of white-tailed deer

By Kevin L. Monteith (B&C Official Measurer), Jonathan A. Jenks (Distinguished Professor, South Dakota State University), R. Terry Bowyer (B&C Professional Member)

Although only one subspecies of white-tailed deer (O. v. dacotensis) inhabits South Dakota, deer occupying the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota are smaller than those in the eastern portion of the state. Average body weight of adult females from eastern South Dakota is 25% heavier than females from the Black Hills. The Black Hills region is characterized by coniferous forests with little understory forage, whereas eastern South Dakota is dominated by high-quality agricultural crops. Disparity in size of deer between these two areas is probably related to differences in forage quality. What would be the effect of improving nutrition of deer from the Black Hills? Would they increase in size and how long would it take for a change in nutrition to have a positive effect on growth?



Implications of Fire History for Conserving Bighorn Sheep

By Vernon C. Bleich (B&C Professional Member)

Steep, rocky terrain is widely recognized as an important component of bighorn sheep habitat. Visual openness, however, also is important because it enhances the probability that bighorn sheep can detect and evade predators. In southern California, some populations of bighorn sheep occupy chaparral habitat, which in the absence of fire can become an almost impenetrable barrier and impacts the ability of bighorn sheep to detect predators. As chaparral vegetation matures, it produces forage of poorer quality than that available in similar, but recently burned, areas.



Fact Stranger Than Fiction: Bears Afraid of Deer?

By Steve Côté

In most instances, a confrontation between a white-tailed deer and a black bear would be decided in favor of the bear. Dr. Steve Côté, a scientist with the Université Laval in Quebec, has indentified a situation which defies this conventional wisdom. Dr. Côté and his colleagues have been studying white-tailed deer on Anticosti Island, a 3,000-mile island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec. Until the late 1800s black bears and mice were the only herbivorous mammals on the island. Bears were abundant in large part because of large, diverse berry crops. In 1896, 200 white-tailed deer were released on Anticosti Island and in 30 years their numbers had increased to over 50,000.


Buck Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus)

White-tailed Deer Buck Movements During the Rut

By David G. Hewitt

The rut can be a particularly exciting time to be afield. Bucks and bulls have one thing on their mind. The intense focus on breeding dramatically changes their behavior. Bachelor groups break up, feeding becomes a distraction, and being secretive and discrete is no longer an advantage. Bucks and bulls come out of cover and into the open to chase, court, and guard females. Wild spaces ring with bugles, grunts, and rattling antlers.



Trophy Points: Big Game Research On Line is complied and edited by David G. Hewitt, a Professional Member of the Boone and Crockett Club and the Stuart W. Stedman Chair for White-tailed Deer Research at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. 

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt