Breeding Trophy Whitetails: An Uphill Climb

This is the first part of three-part series of articles on breeding, growing and managing trophy whitetail deer.

We’ve all been there, on cold morning hunts that seem to drag on endlessly.  The same cull bucks you’ve been staring at weekend after weekend parade in front of you, as do the same bedraggled group of middling bucks.  Basket-rack ten points, sloppy eights, and star-crossed sixes; they never seem to be in short supply.  But in the midst of all the clutter, we’ve also felt that same jolt when the real deal steps out.  A heavy, wide, mature buck that, for lack of better phrasing, is just plain “built for speed.”  True trophy whitetails are in a class all their own.

It’s an extremely large undertaking to breed and raise true trophy whitetails.  It’s not an activity for the short sighted or faint of heart.  The process requires an immense amount of…well, everything.  You’ve got to have land (quite a bit of it), capital, and time.  Lots and lots of time and energy.  In the end, you’re looking to produce with consistency what nature produces inconsistently: a monster whitetail buck with superlative antler characteristics such as height, width, and mass.

Behind every successful deer breeding program is a belabored, meticulously thought out breeding philosophy.  Professional breeders are most usually big fans of wildlife, deer and trophy whitetails.  This makes their job something akin to George Steinbrenner’s, an owner/general manager shaping, guiding and ultimately presiding over a “dream operation.”  And like any other kind of manager, breeders must have a business philosophy, a vision for the direction and ultimate goals of the program.  Before ground is broken or fence posts go up, breeders must first decide on a genetic game plan, a custom-tailored look and feel of their future trophy whitetails.  Once all these pieces are in place and a suitable facility has been constructed, the breeding process can begin.

Over the past decade, we’ve learned that female deer carry a majority of whitetail antler genetics.  As such, any breeding program worth its salt will have a stable of high priced breeder does that are direct descendants of notably large-antlered trophy whitetails.  These breeder does are housed comfortably, tawny bundles of massive potential energy.  They are then either mated with large, genetically proven, on-site breeder bucks, or artificially inseminated with genetic product from massive breeder bucks, stud trophy whitetails of absolutely mammoth proportions.  Depending on the goals of the program and the type of antler characteristics sought, a breeder might choose either or both methods of insemination.  Either way, the semen from "Super Whitetail Buck" is used to impragnate select does under the careful supervision of a reproductive specialist and an experienced staff of wildlife managers.

The impregnated does are closely monitored and daily checked for any problems or pregnancy complications.  They are kept in quiet isolation, far away from other deer and human activity and noise.  The breeder does spend a peaceful spring in seclusion, eating specialized protein feed designed to deliver the maximum nutrients to the gestating mothers and ultimately the unborn trophy whitetails they’ll soon produce.

The comfort and safety of breeder does are of penultimate importance to the professional breeder.  They are the flagships of the program, the standard bearers that create, carry and cultivate the finished product.  Breeder does represent a significant investment on the part of the owner, in large part because they’ve proven an ability to consistently produce genetically superior trophy whitetails, year in and year out.  In the end, they are the ones who really work the magic.