New World's Record Antelope

EliAGrimmett

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My new favorite thing to do is photograph as many two year old pronghorn as I possibly can and try to pick through them and figure out which one is going to be the biggest the next season! It's actually turning out to be easier than I thought it would be. I've nailed two bucks so far, but I've only had two bucks to work with, so I'm two for two. Haha. One of them turned out to score 94-6/8 in his 4th year. :) The other buck I actually just posted a photo of. I photographed him last year as a two year old and I did it because for some reason I thought he looked like he was going to be a huge buck the next season. You can see in the photos that I really didn't have much to go off of, but I turned out to be right. So now I'm taking photos of every two year old we see and trying to see if I can replicate the feat. I have no idea if it's possible to identify which bucks are going to be the biggest 3 year olds from their 2 year old photos, but I think there's a strong possibility that it can be done. The most difficult thing is, of course, hoping that hunters don't shoot them when they're two years old!

For some reason I think this buck will be a World's Record if he lives two more years. If he makes it only to next season I'm going to predict about 90-inches.

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Here's the buck I posted in the other thread as a three year old. As you can see he was a very small and insignificant two year old last year.

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Hof

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Yeah a 2 yr old with cutters like that could end up being pretty impressive!
 

bjtc_brian

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You're talking the one on the right correct... ;) I'm not good at judging antelope, horrible actually. But that sucker has some serious lower mass and cutters on him for a 2 y/o!
 

EliAGrimmett

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Good question.

Fawns are tiny and have no horns, so they're easy to identify.

Yearlings (or 1 year olds (really closer to 1-1/2 years old depending on when the fawn is dropped)) will have their first set of horns and look like the tiny wide buck in the photo above. They are also very easy to identify. Very small bodies.

2 Year Olds are at the transition stage. They're generally easy to identify, but sometimes it can be difficult. When bucks are two their bodies aren't quite fully developed so they will be smaller than 3 years olds. They will also usually have horns that aren't very big, but their horns will look like a "normal" set of horns. They'll have prongs and be longer than their ears. Sometimes their faces will look dainty and immature. Sometimes they'll be running with other immature bucks. They'll almost never be the leader of the herd during the rut unless the "alpha" buck has run off to defend his territory. 2 Year Olds generally aren't the bucks that will be doing the breeding.

3 Year Olds+ will have bodies that are fully grown and horns that are fully developed. Once an antelope becomes 3 years old it will be difficult from this point onward to determine just how much older than 3 a buck is without getting their teeth aged. Sometimes there will be more black on their nose or a larger/darker cheek patch. Though these last points aren't always a rule. I've seen old bucks with almost no black on their faces or cheeks. Sometimes their chin and jaw line will start to sag. They may appear overall like they are just a really large animal.

I know the research has shown that the largest antelope that are killed are usually in the 3 or 4 year old range, but I've got a very strong inclination that the largest bucks will be 4 years old and not 3 years old. Also, I believe that the majority of antelope will start to regress in their horn size once they hit 5 years - the amount is dependent on a lot of factors. The problem is that most 3 year olds, because this is the year they start to become really big, will get killed during the season and never make it to 4 years old.
 

bonedogg

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absolutely awesome, sweet post! I love this time of year when Eli gives us a few pics to think about. Thoroughly enjoy your posts.
 

canvsbk

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I find this age thing quite interesting. The game warden gave us a tutorial on ageing them from their teeth last year, I have no idea if he knew his stuff or not but we assumed he was correct. Of our 4 bucks, we had 1 at 8 years old, about half the thickness of his teeth were ground away. We also had a buck, perfectly healthy with above average horns with zero teeth in his head. He was grazing when shot, I guess he just gummed it all down. The game warden had no clue as to his age. Was he correct about the teeth thing?
 

EliAGrimmett

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You can gauge them based on just looking at their teeth if you have some practice, but overall I've never been able to do it very well. A big part of it depends on where they live, what the conditions have been like during their lives, and what they're eating. This will all play a big part in tooth wear and tear. Also, kind of like just judging their age when they're alive, you can't do it very well once they start getting into the older age classes.

Here's a link with a tutorial on how to age them by their teeth -

http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/mammals/antelope/
 

elkantlers

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How do you tell they are the same buck from year to year? Do they keep the same horn configuration similar to deer and elk antlers? What about the neck/chest markings?
We went through a check station in Wyoming two years ago and the guy aged our pronghorn at 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 years old. He didn't look at the teeth, just looked at the heads. Do you think he was accurate? They did look like different age class bucks even to me.
 

EliAGrimmett

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Sometimes it's easy to tell the same buck from year to year. Other times it's a lot harder. The biggest two factors are obviously the shape of the horns and the location of the buck. Occasionally we may have to start looking at the white stripes on the neck, the cheek patches, or sometimes the buck will have some other outstanding characteristic that gives him away - like a bullet lodged in his kneecap.

For me, since I literally look at antelope photos and video every single day of my life - and I have been since I was in my teens - antelope horns are basically like looking at peoples faces. If you look at someone, don't see them for ten years, and then see them again you'll recognize them as soon as you see them. Of course, they'll look a little different, but the basic structure of their faces will always remain the same.

An antelopes horns will change from year to year, sometimes a lot, but often they're pretty similar. One of the main things that never changes are the width of their horn cores. Since they're bone they don't ever move so a buck will remain the same width his entire life. The amount the horns lean forward or backward will remain the same as well.

I have no idea if the game warden was accurate or not with your bucks.

I'll try to find a few more examples of bucks that I have photos of from one year to the next.
 

EliAGrimmett

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Here's a good example of what it looks like when it's difficult to know for sure if it's the same buck or not from one year to the next.

The first two photos were taken last year. The next three photos were taken this year.

The buck is the same width. The horns are shaped the same overall. In this years photos the buck hooks more and is longer and bigger everywhere, but that's to be expected from one year to the next - especially if the buck is two years old in the first set of photos and then three years old in the next. The left horn hooks down ever so slightly more than the right horn - this characteristic is the same in both years. There's really no special characteristics on the white stripes or cheek patches.

One of the other BIG components is the simple fact that both photos were taken within 300 yards of each other. Add that to the fact that in the first year, we didn't see the second buck, and in the second year, we didn't see the first buck. This last point is very critical, but easily overlooked.


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Baerman

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I thought I read a post from BigFin that said an antelope buck is at maximum potential at 2 yrs of age? I could have (must have) completely misread that post though.
 

EliAGrimmett

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That BigFin guy doesn't know his head from his...just kidding. I don't think I ever remember him saying that. If he did he probably just hit the "2" on accident.
 

Big Fin

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I thought I read a post from BigFin that said an antelope buck is at maximum potential at 2 yrs of age? I could have (must have) completely misread that post though.

That BigFin guy doesn't know his head from his...just kidding. I don't think I ever remember him saying that. If he did he probably just hit the "2" on accident.

Eli knows me too well. I don't know chicken soup from chicken poop. But, the studies I think Baerman was referring to are these age/horn growth studies that I mentioned at one time. It is suprising how many 3 year old bucks score near 80" or more, and how many 6+ year old bucks score under 76".

Wonder what score those 3 year olds would have ended at, given another year of growth, or if they cap out at that time? Even a few 2.5 year olds are whoppers. The study was done by the Arizona Antelope Foundation, in conjunction with hunters who volunteered their harvest information and some landowners in NM and CO.

Web page with lots of data - http://azantelope.org/Facts___Research/Pronghorn_Aging_Study/pronghorn_aging_study.html

Study I am referring to: Three year summary, by age of the buck - http://azantelope.org/Pronghorn_Age_Data_through_2008_by_Age.pdf
 

EliAGrimmett

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This looks like the sentence you were probably quoting from:

"Only three studies of pronghorn horn growth have been conducted, the most recent being on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana in which 85 animals were aged over an 8 year period (Mitchell and Maher 2001). Those authors found that pronghorn attained adult-sized horns when 2 or 3 years old, and that these two age classes contained the largest horn measurements."

Even with this study, I have my reservations about labeling 2 year olds as having the ability to have their largest set of horns as an adult. I think it stems from my belief that the lab seems to make more mistakes than you'd think they would. For instance, one pronghorn we found in 2003 and thought was well over 90-inches lived another year. We killed him that next year, in 2004, and the buck net scored 94-inches. Very similar in size to the year before, but probably a hair bigger in 2004. We had his teeth aged by cementum analysis and the results came back that the buck, when killed, was a 2 year old. Obviously, that result was a mistake. The buck, as far as I could tell, had to be AT LEAST a 4 year old. But if you believe the studies you might believe that it could have been a 3 year old. I don't believe that it could have been a 3 year old. The problem with believing the studies is that you have to accept all the mistakes as well.

I don't know what their typical error rate is, but if it's in the 10%+ range than the results of a lot of those studies might be skewed quite a bit. If they include a 94-inch 2 year old into the results it might not change the overall results much. But if you do it a couple times it might make a big difference.

The old world record - The O'Haco Buck - was aged at 3 years old. O'Haco himself, in his original story of the buck, claimed to have been watching the buck for several years before finally being drawn for a tag. If that's true, then the buck wasn't a 3 year old. I have no idea if it is, but it could be.

I think another big aspect of these studies is that none of them take into account how big the buck was the year before they killed it since, most likely, none of them know. There is also a huge amount of selection bias at work here, too. The biggest bucks generally are the ones the hunters are trying to take. If one is big, then they shoot it. There's absolutely no way to know if they shoot a 2 year old just how big the buck would have been the next season if they had let the buck live. My guess is that it would probably have been bigger each time.

I'm sure the overall analysis may be close to reality, but saying that a 2 year old can have his largest set of horns is a bit far fetched to me.
 

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