Imperial Whitetail PowerPlant Improving Antlers by the Numbers

By Jon Cooner

It’s pretty simple, folks. If you want the bucks you hunt next fall to be carrying larger antlers, you’ll need to supply them with lots of palatable, protein-rich foliage during the spring and summer. And no other competing product the Whitetail Institute has ever tested beats Imperial Whitetail PowerPlant for doing exactly that.

PowerPlant is a carefully crafted blend of forage legumes and small amounts of sunflowers and a high-quality wildlife sorghum.

Forage Legumes.

The key to PowerPlant’s superiority is the nature of the legumes in the product. They’re true forage varieties, which can outperform standard, agricultural-type plant varieties in a big way when used as a forage for deer. The forage soybean in PowerPlant is a great example. All soybeans are not the same, especially when used as a forage for deer. Standard agricultural soybeans, which are specifically designed for bean production, are certainly attractive to deer, but they do have some drawbacks. For one, agricultural-variety soybean plants can quickly become stemmy as they mature and the lignen content in them increases. And the stemmier they get, the less attractive they are to deer, which require tender forages due to their small ruminant digestive systems. Ag soybeans can also suffer from early overgrazing. The forage soybeans in PowerPlant, though, can better withstand heavy deer usage once they establish — they can even regenerate and continue to grow once deer start feeding on them! You can easily see the difference between PowerPlant’s forage soybeans and standard ag beans once they establish because the beans in PowerPlant grow into a supple, tender vine instead of a tough stem the way ag bean plants do. And that’s true of the other legumes in PowerPlant as well. That’s why PowerPlant also includes small amounts of sunflowers and sorghum as structural components, which give the legume vines something to climb and maximize foliage production instead of growing along the ground. The result is a tangled jungle of succulent foliage that grows up to six feet tall, providing deer with huge amounts of high-protein forage as well as an attractive bedding area. How important is it to provide deer with the sort of abundant, high protein forage that PowerPlant delivers during the spring and summer? I’ll answer that by summarizing some key numbers in antler growth. Keep in mind the old saying, “Numbers don’t lie!” The number we’ll start with is 200.

200 Days in the Spring/Summer Antler-Growing Window

Our first number, 200, is the number of days generally in the antlergrowing window of spring and summer. While exact beginning and ending dates vary regionally, bucks generally have only about 200 days during the spring and summer in which to grow antlers. The key to getting the fastest, most direct results in antler size lies in identifying the main factors that influence antler size, and put our management efforts toward those that offer the best potential to deliver direct, rapid results. And that brings us to our next important number: 3.

3 Main Factors Affecting Antler Size Bruce Lee: Deer Manager?

Martial arts icon Bruce Lee once said, “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” While it’s just a guess, I’d bet Mr. Lee was referring to how to develop proficiency in martial arts. Still, the exact same philosophy applies when we manage deer toward specific goals: the best course is to focus your efforts on actions that will get you to your goal in a direct way. Most folks are familiar with the antler-size “pyramid,” which shows the three main factors involved in antler size. It can be tempting to immediately jump in with both feet and start trying to manage all three factors right off the bat. As with anything else, though, you’ll get to your goal a lot more efficiently if you take the time to understand where to put your efforts so that they’ll do the most good and as quickly as possible. Below, I’ll show you why supplementing nutrition in an educated way usually offers the most potential for rapid results than the other two factors in most free-range situations.


Few things in life are absolutely certain. One thing that is certain, though, is that a buck simply cannot grow the largest set of antlers his genes will allow until he’s mature — about 5-1/2 to 6-1/2 years old. That’s why passing up immature bucks is a “must do” for anyone hoping to maximize antler size in the bucks he hunts. Even so, you may not see the direct results of passing up immature bucks quickly. In many free-range situations, young bucks die or relocate before reaching maturity, so there’s no guarantee that the young bucks you pass up today will still be on the property in the future.


The fact that the maximum size a buck’s antlers can reach when he’s mature is set in stone by his genes is clearly understood by most hunters and managers. Less so in most free-range cases are the actual benefits of common actions intended to improve genetics: some may have little effect, if any at all. “Culling,” for example, or attempting to influence herd genetics by removing individual bucks that appear inferior so they can’t breed, can be rather ineffective in many free-range management situations. Observation alone is a poor diagnostic tool at best. It can be an easy mistake for someone to remove a young buck by accident, and bucks with antlers deformed through injury during velvet may grow fully formed antlers the next year. Also, half of a buck’s genes come from its mother, and observation is a poor tool when deciding which does to remove. And even if the bucks culled from the herd are truly genetically inferior, removing a buck or two from the herd isn’t going to change overall herd genetics much, if at all. Perhaps the biggest reason why culling offers little in the way of rapid, direct results in improving antlers is that genetics usually aren’t the limiting factor in antler size! How many of us have heard a fellow hunter say something like, “I wish the deer around here had better genetics?” Usually, they’re bemoaning the average size of bucks’ antlers in the area and assuming that antler size can’t be improved because it’s genetically limited. In most free range cases, though, that assumption is simply incorrect. More often than not, free-range bucks have the genetic potential to grow larger antlers than they do, but they’re limited by other factors. Hunters should certainly strive to get bucks into older age classes. As bucks grow older, though, most of the time they are extremely limited by shortfalls in quality nutrition, and it’s crucial to address this if bigger-antlered bucks are the goal. To understand why, take a look at our next number: 80.

80 A buck’s velvet antler is about 80 percent protein

Deer antlers are the fastest-growing animal tissue on earth. That’s not surprising when you consider that they only have about 200 days to grow antlers from start to finish. And when you consider that the “velvet” antlers (the growing antler prior to hardening) is about 80% collagen (a protein), you can understand why having the huge tonnage of highly digestible protein PowerPlant provides readily available to your deer is so important during the spring and summer — especially when you consider how downright stingy Mother Nature can be with protein. Research has shown that bucks need about 16% to 18% protein in their diets to maximize antler size. Some naturally occurring forages have protein levels of only about 10%, and most are far lower in protein. And to make matters even worse, most natural forages are highly palatable only when they’re young, and they can become tough and stemmy as they mature, and therefore less digestible by deer. The result is a protein shortfall that acts as a roadblock to maximizing antler size.

You Do the Math!

The bottom line is that it takes huge amounts of protein for bucks to grow antlers within the short span of 200 days during the spring and summer; and while naturally occurring forages usually provide enough protein for bucks to grow antlers, rarely do they provide anywhere near enough protein for bucks to grow the biggest antlers they can. That’s why it’s so important to supplement nutrition available to your deer with the abundant, high protein forage that PowerPlant provides. PowerPlant is purpose built to establish quickly, survive grazing better, and provide maximum tonnage of high-protein forage that stays highly palatable right when deer need it most: during the spring and summer.

And here’s a reminder: Some of our customers have missed PowerPlant in past years due to limited availability, so don’t delay in booking your PowerPlant for this spring!