More Rain, Bigger Antlers?
Photo by Jason Mrachina
Spring and summer rains are driving across the country, and that trend should continue (hopefully) through the next several months. Everyone knows that as temperatures rise and humidity levels peak, storms pop up. Whether you love a good thunderstorm or despise them, we're here to tell you why you should welcome abundant rainfall.
While I am no biologist, scientist, or anything special, I like to live in the real world of truth, logic, and common sense. Even I can draw a line of correlation between heavy rainfall and increased growth in everything from native browse vegetation to human-planted crops. Rain makes everything grow, and that likely includes whitetail deer antlers.
More rain does equate to larger antlers on whitetail deer- at least in some regard. The famous south Texas whitetail study proved that deer grew larger antlers during years with more rainfall. Numerous wildlife biologists and whitetail hunting experts alike have been eluding to this for decades. It seems like an old hunting camp myth, but it makes a ton of sense.
More rain definitely equals more food. More food generally equates to healthier deer with bigger bodies and bigger racks. Nutrition is everything when it comes to growing big deer. More food, more nutrition, bigger bucks. It's a pretty simple equation.
We should preface the excitement over spring and summer rainfall by drawing attention to the fact that things can change drastically from region to region.
For instance, an overly wet spring in the Midwest could actually have an adverse impact on whitetails. Midwestern deer generally rely on crops for a bulk of their nutrition. If fields are too wet to work and farmers are late to plant, deer in those areas could be downgrading their nutrition by being forced to consume native browse.
At the same time, a perfect storm could arise in the same big-buck belt states. If the rain starts pouring after crops have been planted, you could be in for a double-dip effect. Native browse booming at the same time as planted crops are booming could be quite the combination when it comes to allowing bucks in the area to tap into their full potential.
Abundant rains may be the best thing going for those of us who aren't blessed with a ton of agriculture in our hunting areas. In areas that lack agriculture, whitetails are surely hooked on all of the native browse in the area. Native growth and mast crops are probably the bulk of their diet. A lot of rain could provide more native browse and a bumper mast crop, which inevitably leads to bigger, healthier deer.
More food and nutrition is always a good thing for whitetail deer. While big racks and bodies are not everything, us hunters are undoubtedly mesmerized by both. It's why we plant food plots, practice quality deer management, and get so fired up when we see a big one. Big antlers drive the whitetail hunting world, and rainfall very much drives big antlers.
Too much rain can definitely be a bad thing, but we're going to keep heaping the praise on rainfall for a minute. Wet weather also does wonders in keeping nasty diseases like EHD from striking down deer herds across America.
EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease) is generally spread during drought conditions when whitetails are drawn to muddy areas near water sources. Deer are then bit by insects carrying the disease, and thus we have the horrific spread of EHD. Even a bad EHD outbreak can be combated by a good rainfall. When the muddy areas around drying water sources are eliminated, EHD can be contained to some extent.
Another reason to love that spring and summer rainfall.
Just speaking from my own observations from the stand over the years, rain makes a huge difference. It's not always a great thing, either.
In years with less than average rainfall, the mast crop in my area of eastern Ohio always seems to slouch. As someone who hunts far more field edges and clearings than I hunt hardwoods, especially during the early season, I welcome a lesser mast crop. I know that acorns are nutritious and beneficial for whitetails, but they can downright kill the hunting.
When those oak trees explode, I can almost guarantee that my observed activity from the treestand will drop. Again, that can change drastically from region to region. You may hunt oak groves specifically and love drawing whitetails into the hardwoods. In that case, rain can still be your best friend.
One thing is becoming quite apparent throughout this conversation, and that is the significance of rainfall. Whether it helps or hurts you, rain is a massive factor in deer hunting. We may not even realize just how integral rainfall really is.
If you like big bucks, you may just want to break out your best rain dance every once and a while this summer. Regardless of where you hunt, there is going to be some correlation between antler size and rainfall. There can also be implications in disease prevention and hunting action, as we touched on briefly.
Just remember that more forage and abundant crops are a deer hunter's best friend. When deer have more to eat, they grow bigger. That we know for certain thanks to examples like Iowa, Illinois, and the other Midwestern states with a ton of agriculture. Food is king for whitetail deer.
In the words of country superstar Luke Bryan, rain is a good thing. Like all things, moderation is key. Flooding and other bad things can happen when too much rain comes knocking. But it's the unquestioned lifeblood of all living things, and we need it for quality deer hunting.