Antler amplitude: Year’s moisture could lead to big antler growth

Hoping for a trophy? This could be the year you get the mount of a lifetime.

“We could see some great antler growth this year with all the moisture we’ve had creating high grass,” says Russ Lambert, co-owner of Colorado Outfitters. “Elk up high usually find good grass anyway, but it could have a great impact on anther growth in the high desert areas. We’re kind of excited about that.”

In free-ranging wildlife there are several factors that can affect antler growth, says Colorado Parks & Wildlife biologist Darby Finley.  These include age, genetics and nutrition. It’s the latter this year that could ramp up racks in the region.

“In general, this should be a good forage year for animals, considering the moisture we’ve been receiving,” she says.

But before you get all gaga over antler growth, she offers a word of caution. “Animals were in poorer overall nutritional condition going into this season, given the extremely dry summer and harsh winter we had this past year,” she says. “How the combination of those two factors will ultimately affect antler growth is hard to say, but overall the good forage conditions should favor better antler growth.”

The other good news, she adds, is that it shouldn’t be restricted to any one particular region. “The moisture we received is pretty wide spread, providing for good forage conditions across much of the western slope of Colorado,” she says. “So there isn’t one particular area that will see better antler growth than another.”

The only exception, she adds, might be some of the quality units where CPW manages for older age classes of bull elk through limited license numbers. There, the combination of moisture and game management might well lead to Boone and Crockett scores.

—Eugene Buchanan