Spike on One Side (SOOS) Bucks Requested in Alabama

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Alabama’s gun deer season opens Saturday, November 19, 2011. Hunters are encouraged to participate in a research project being conducted by the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) is cooperating with Gabe Karns, a graduate student at Auburn University, to encourage hunters to harvest and provide antlers and skull plates from bucks with a spike on one side (SOOS) for inclusion in the study. SOOS bucks have one normally formed antler on one side, and a spike, or a forked prong, on the other side.

Harvesting an SOOS buck will count toward the three buck limit. For a complete list of hunting regulations visit http://www.eregulations.com/alabama/.

White-tailed deer antler growth is the product of genetic, physical, and environmental variables. Because a single genetic code determines antler structure for both sides, slight deviations from perfect symmetry are the result of non-genetic factors such as nutritional deficiencies, drought, parasites, or other stressors. More severe antler abnormalities are usually attributed to injuries to the deer’s limbs or pedicles (the base from which the antlers grow) and damage to developing antlers in velvet. Damage to developing antlers in velvet may also abruptly halt growth and result in under-developed antler structure characterized by “acorn” antler tips.

Examining bucks that exhibit SOOS antler traits should shed light on a very contentious issue among deer hunters, “What constitutes a genetic cull buck?” SOOS bucks are almost always lumped into the genetically “inferior” group. Limited data gathered during the 2010-2011 hunting season provided results suggesting this interpretation to be incorrect; however, more data is needed to better understand the SOOS phenomenon. 

Skulls should be cleaned with no hide or significant amount of tissue remaining. European-style skulls and skull plates with at least one inch of bone surrounding both pedicles in all directions are acceptable samples. After examination, samples will be returned, if needed, to the hunter.

Alabama hunters are allowed to harvest three bucks a year, one of which must have at least four points 1 inch or longer on one antler. Hunters must record the date each buck is harvested and have that information available when in the field. A harvested SOOS buck will count toward the hunter’s three-buck limit.

The research project relies heavily on private landowners and hunting clubs to collect SOOS samples. This is an opportunity for Alabama deer hunters to take a proactive role in deer research and management efforts.  Please contact Gabe Karns at grk0002@auburn.edu for information on how you can participate in the SOOS collection process.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.


hunter25's picture

Although I wouldn't describe

Although I wouldn't describe this as a study that is needed I would realy like to see the results as I find it interesting. In the past they always tried to tell us that if it started as a spike it would never be a great buck. We have taken a few 1x2 bucks here over hte years and I never really knew why they grew that way. I know while hunting in Texas this year we saw an unusually high number of spike bucks in an are where we didn't see any hte year before so it seems obvious that the drought and lack of water or good nutrition definately played a role in it.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Definately an interesting

Definately an interesting study, but I don't agree with you Retired.  I don't think there is anything wrong, genetically or otherwise, with a spike buck.  Furthermore, I do not think there is, or needs to be, a "cure" for them.  I think it's 99% about nutrition.  Sure, some deer may have only spikes, the others might fork their first year, but studies have shown that eventually all deer have the potential to be "trophy" deer if left with sufficient food, water, and protection. 

But I do agree with the last part of your post.  Any harvest is an accomplishment, and means a successful hunts, and a story to be shared.  I am fully against AR's, because I think it's simply a way of making our sport about the "trophies".  People have lost touch with the reason we hunted in the first place, which was meat for the table. Maybe if you have land that has 50 bucks on it, you can be selective, and more power to you.  It's your land, your rules.  But to force an antler requirement on everyone across the board, in the name of herd "health", is wrong in my opinion.

All that being said, it will be interesting to seee wha they find for results in this study at Auburn.  I can understand a sever deficiency in antlers on each side, like a spike with 4 or 5 points on the other, but this may lead to some bucks like a 3x3, or a 2x1 being killed and studied for a genetic deficiency or injury.  I just think it's looking for an answer without a legitimate question.

Retired2hunt's picture

  An interesting program and


An interesting program and one that could assist in determining exactly what causes the abnormal antler growth and maybe even a "cure".  I would think the program would get more SOOS submissions if they offered some "reward" for the skull plate and antlers.  I completely understand that the deer does have to count towards the Alabama regulation of a total of three bucks... but I would think more would be received if they threw in a flashlight or a knife as a consolation for bringing in the specimen.  It makes sense that most landowners are the ones contributing their specimen as they are most likely hunting for meat and not always a trophy.  It also makes sense that hunt clubs are the other participant as the hunting areas are often hunted hard and harvesting any deer is an accomplishment.  For me these deer are not "inferior" but actually a successful harvest and another hunting story that will be shared.  Pretty neat program and I would like to read the results or findings from the specimens provided.