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Sunday, 11 April 2021 11:58 Written by Kovács Gábor

The formation of the roe deer antlers depending on the weather and the availability of food (Professional blog)

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“I consider the roe deer antler to be the most original, the most varied and the finest trophy of all. None of them looks like another, they are all individual, they are precious memorabilia.” - wrote Zsigmond Széchenyi, former world traveler, Hungarian hunter.

Among the huntable species in our country, in respect of hunting, one of the most popular – or even the most popular – species, especially in the Great Hungarian Plain region is indisputably the Roebuck. The Roebuck, which is able to produce the most desirable antler racks from year to year, regardless of whether the game management service has done a proper wild culling or not. We would like to point out that there are undesirable, unwanted bucks among the wild game population every year, even if those who are entitled to hunt completed the selection culling based on age and sex in the previous years. The success of wildlife management can be determined based on the ratio of the medal trophies, and it has several influencing factors, such as the winter weather, the amount of the nutrition in the vegetation based on soil conditions, and genetics as well.

There were several researchers who studied the effects of the environment on the deer antlers using scientific methods. These researchers found that there are four abiotic factors affecting the quality of the deer population; namely the arable land, the clearings, the ratio of the tree species and the bedrock. These are the principal factors affecting the body weight and the condition of the individual, which has a direct effect on the antler quality. Different species have to share the habitat available to them and the food sources available there. For a dense population, the intraspecific competition may be intensified, so the rivalry within the species and the defense of their territory can lead to fierce fights between the bucks, which can affect the condition and, indirectly, the quality of the antlers as well. So it can be determined that the medal ratio can be statistically improved in an appropriately dense and well-managed population.

After examining different prey data, it can be concluded that the bucks with higher antler weight also have higher body weight. Thus, condition and fitness especially have an effect on the weight of the antler. The game manager can improve the body weight by feeding, and can also use roughage, grain feed and juicy fodder to provide vitamins and minerals during the seasons when food is scarce to improve the survival rate of the animals. The weight of the antlers also increases in direct proportion with the body weight. According to the research of Volmer and Herzog, heavier bucks have larger antlers. If we add the effect of the habitat to these conclusions, we can state based on the data available that from among the factors of age, habitat and body weight, body weight is the determining factor. Weather also needs to be mentioned as a determining factor affecting the quality of the trophies directly.

Since the species conquered the formerly uninhabited counties of the Great Hungarian Plain, they established a population with outstanding quality there. This region includes the counties of Békés, Hajdú-Bihar, Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok, Szabolcs and Heves. In our country, this region has the most favorable conditions for the roe deer, and it can be seen through the increased mass of the antlers as well. There are several other counties with an excellent quality deer population, but considering the ratio of the medal trophies, the Great Hungarian Plain area is the most optimal. Roe deer is a so- called r-strategic species compared to other kinds of deer. The main points of the r- (or reproductive) strategy are the following: to grow fast, have an early maturity, be often pregnant with twins, and have a shorter lifespan compared to the other big game species. The species is grateful for the favorable environment, they find the necessary conditions for life with ease. These conditions are the availability of quality food sources – in the case of the roe deer, thanks to their shorter small bowel, they have the ability to eat food with a lower fiber content - and serenity, as well as undisturbed hideouts. Of course, these conditions should not be far from each other, so in the case of bucks, both must be found within their territory, since the area of movement of the deer is relatively small.

Regarding the quality of the trophies, the quality of the habitat has standard importance. Soil and food availability. Weather plays an extremely important role. Mild winter, not too much snow and a sufficient amount of sunlight. These conditions can favor the growth of average-weight trophies, but in the case of a harsh winter, long-lasting and thick snow cover, the average weight can decrease. This seems to be logical since in the case of thick snow and a windy, freezing cold winter, the animals of the population concentrate on surviving. They spend more energy on finding food and obtaining their energy supply than growing of embrios during the pregnancy and building their antlers, so smaller trophies can be expected with lower quality, and the newborn kid will be in a worse condition. Considering the winter months of 2020, we have reason to be optimistic, since we have some mild months behind us, and this is expected to have its effect on the development of the antlers as well.

In summary, the quality of the trophy is mostly determined by the habitat, the serenity and the weather. Considering this, I can say that the roe deer season of this year is expected to offer similarly excellent hunting experiences, and an abundance of high-quality trophies... I would like to use another quotation from Zsigmond Széchenyi to close my reasoning and to wish you good hunting: “All my trophies were swept away by the war, both foreign and those from my country. And if they gave me a chance to choose, to get back some of those, I would reach for the ones from my homeland, without hesitation. – I weave the same dream, but I make it a little narrower this time. If you could choose one from the games of your home, which one would it be? My answer would be the following, without any doubt: my deer antlers, nothing else!”

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