Study shows 2 percent decline in big-game horn, antler size over 108-year span

2013-02-17T22:00:00Z 2013-02-27T18:39:37Z Study shows 2 percent decline in big-game horn, antler size over 108-year span missoulian.com

The horn and antler sizes on big-game trophy animals have grown slightly smaller over the past 100 years, with evidence pointing to the selective harvest of males as a possible cause, a new study has found.

The findings were released this month by six researchers from the University of Montana, Idaho State University, Arizona Game and Fish and the California Department of Fish and Game.

The team reviewed 22,000 Boone and Crockett Club records and found a roughly 2 percent decline in the size of horns and antlers in 25 trophy categories of North American big-game species. The decline has occurred over the past 108 years.

“The Boone and Crockett Club is the oldest conservation club in the U.S. and the second oldest in the world,” said Paul Krausman, the Boone and Crockett professor of wildlife conservation at UM. “They maintain a record of horns and antlers and it’s the biggest record we know of.”

Krausman said the Boone and Crockett records – kept at the club’s headquarters in Missoula – reflect the overall and long-term health of North America’s wildlife populations. The record is extensive and dates back to around 1905, though it had never been analyzed before now.

The record includes 15,778 listings for antlered game and 6,526 for horned game. The study found the reduction in horn and antler size had occurred in 11 of 17 antlered species and three of eight horned species.

“The decrease is statistically significant – it really is a change,” said Krausman. “But biologically, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.”

Several species protected by more conservative hunting regulations, including bighorn sheep and bison, did not exhibit the same reduction in horn size. Pronghorn showed a significant increase in horn size over the last century, Krausman said.

***

Krausman attributes the horn and antler reduction in other species to the focused harvesting of males. The study suggests that, over time, it has lowered the age structure, allowing fewer animals to reach trophy status prior to harvest.

“The main thing that supports the decrease was harvest, but that doesn’t mean hunting is ruining the genetic stock in these animals,” Krausman said. “Conservation is benefited so much by hunting for all it does. It far exceeds this miniscule decline in horn and antler size.”

Historically, Krausman said, conservationists recognized the need for laws to protect large, hoofed mammals across North America from unregulated hunting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Leading the conservation effort was President Teddy Roosevelt, who in 1887 founded the Boone and Crocket Club. The club sought to “work for the preservation of the large game of this country, and, so far as possible, to further legislation for that purpose, and to assist in enforcing the existing laws.”

The club also looked to establish a baseline against which future trends in the size of trophy animals could be compared. Early measurements included a simple look at the skull’s length or the longest antler or horn.

But in 1949, a committee formed to develop a standardized method of measuring large North American mammals. Adopted in 1950, the system remains the universal standard for quantifying antler and horn size.

“We took that 108-year-old data set to determine if horns and antlers were changing,” Krausman said. “We looked at those in relation to habitat, climate change, hunting pressure, sociological issues and genetics.

“After we looked at everything, we found no shift in some species that are conservatively harvested. But in other species, they did indeed show decreases in horn and antler sizes.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. lakeguy406
    Report Abuse
    lakeguy406 - February 19, 2013 5:48 am
    Ya think? Not too hard to tell that we are selective in hunting only the horns. 90% of the worlds big fish have been harvested as well. It does not take a rocket scientist to see what is happening. The human race will be the last of the big species to show their demise. Might be 50 years. Might be 500.
  2. Roger
    Report Abuse
    Roger - February 18, 2013 7:37 am
    One has to wonder about the supposed 108-year-old data, when the more comprehensive standardized system was implemented in 1950. Was this study published in a journal?

    The earlier data only looked at skull length, or the length of one horn or antler - that cannot be very valid data. It's difficult to believe that the data is statistically significant.
  3. Bittersweet
    Report Abuse
    Bittersweet - February 17, 2013 11:43 pm
    B&C all time World Records (North American Big Game)

    American Elk Typical 1968
    American Elk Non Typical 2008
    Roosevelt's Elk 2002
    Tule Elk 2005
    Whitetail Typical 2003
    Whitetail Non Typical 1981
    Coes' Typical Whitetail 1953
    Coes' Non Typical Whitetail 1971
    Mule Deer Typical 1972
    Mule Deer Non Typical 1926
    Columbia Blacktail Typical 1953
    Columbia Blacktail Non Typical 1962
    Sitka Blacktail Typical 1970
    Sitka Blacktail Non Typical 1987
    Alaska Yukon Moose 1994
    Canada Moose 1980
    Shiras Moose 1952
    American Pronghorn Antelope 2002
    Muskox 2006
    Rocky Mountain Goat 2011
    Bighorn Sheep 2000
    Desert Sheep 1940
    Dall's Sheep 1961
    Stone's Sheep 1936
    Mountain Caribou 1988
    Woodland Caribou 1910
    Barren Ground Caribou 1999
    Central Canada Barren Ground Caribou 1994
    Quebec Labrador Caribou 1931

    ............

    Pope and Young (Out of 36 existing World's Records...North American Big Game) ...2004...2004....1998....2003...2002...1984....1994...2004...1984....1966....1993....1969....1988....1987....2001....2008....2009....1987......1965....2000....1990....2002.....2005....1990....2003....2008....1988....1987....1996....1998...1995....2006...1998....1988....2007...1992.

    ..........

    I absolutely hate this record book/contest stuff but with that said, there are several ways to look at/approach this study. Average out the so called biggest and the best over a one hundred year (+) period. Several variables for sure but it does put the largest of any game harvested in more recent times. Just something to consider. I am glad every gas station and sporting goods store in MT doesn't have these "big buckem" contests like the have in Cheeseheadville. Be happy with what you harvest or don't harvest it. Who cares what anyone else thinks?







Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's headlines in ab…

Sidney tornado

Sidney tornado

Dexter Jensen shot this video of a tornado that touched down Tuesday near Sidney.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

Richard Sullivan reads a statement at his sentencing.

Richard Sullivan reads a statement at his sentencing.

Sullivan gives a statement at his sentencing.

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Rob Chaney presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg presents the latest news you need to know about today's …

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Kate Haake presents the latest news you need to know about today's headl…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

The 4:06 – trending topics and hot headlines

Missoulian reporter Martin Kidston presents the latest news you need to know about today's h…

loading...

Search our events calendar