11 Cool Facts: How Whitetail Bucks Grow Antlers

velvet buck compress1) Back around April, as the days got longer and the light increased, new antlers began to grow from buds that formed on pedicels on bucks’ heads. Within a month, main beams and brow tines began to sprout and split off.

2) Now, throughout early summer, the fledgling racks grow fast and furious. Antler tissue is the fastest-growing tissue in the animal world. Beams and tines may grow a quarter-inch or more per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones and the photoperiod of the days.

3) According to biologists, a buck’s rack will show most of its points by mid-June, though tine length is typically less than half developed at this time. Most of the beam length will grow by late June.

4) Those are general rules, but the growth of individual racks can vary. Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others seem to add a bunch to their rack later in July.

Here are some interesting facts about summer antler growth:

5) Antlers are made of bone, consisting mostly of calcium (22% in fully developed bone), phosphorus (11%), magnesium and other minerals. Although some of the minerals needed for antler growth are taken from food, scientists note that lot of them are sucked from the buck’s skeleton, which may cause him to develop osteoporosis during the summer. Setting mineral licks for the deer may help.

6) Throughout June and July, velvet antlers have a complex system of blood vessels that causes them to be hot to the touch. There is so much blood carrying protein and minerals to a buck’s antlers that even small racks easily detected with thermal imaging devices.

7) Tiny hairs on the velvet stick out and make growing antlers appear thicker than they really are. The hairs act as a radar system so the buck won’t bump into trees, fence posts, etc. and damage his soft antlers.

8) Sebum, a semi-liquid secretion, on the hairs gives the velvet a shiny look. Sebum also acts as an insect repellent to keep biting flies off a buck’s rack and face.

9) In early August antlers begin to morph from soft and pliable to hardened bone. A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter. Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.

10) By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks typically shed the velvet. The cue for antler hardening and velvet shedding is the change in photoperiod caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.

11) Velvet shedding typically takes only a couple of hours, though it is not uncommon to see a deer walking around for day or two with bloody velvet tatters. One last thing you might not know: Bucks have been known to turn their heads and peel or even eat the dry velvet off their new racks!

After that, the tree rubbing and antler-polishing begin. With their new crowns gleaming, mature bucks are ready and willing to breed the does for the next three months, until their testosterone begins to fade and the fascinating antler cycle begins all over again.

How To Build Summer Mineral Licks For Deer

mineral siteMineral sites or “licks” provide hubs for your trail cameras and allow you to gain critical intel on bucks for months. You take pictures and watch them grow all summer, which is fun, and you start to pattern and narrow their movements as bow season approaches later toward fall.

On one of the farms I hunt in Virginia, my friend Jack and I have 8 licks scattered across 800 acres of woods. About 1 strategically placed mineral site for every 100 acres is about right.

We normally begin lining these sites with minerals sometime in May, and the deer visit them immediately. The bucks on this farm know where the licks are and have been hitting them regularly for years. But anywhere you make a new lick, deer will find it rather quickly.

Right now, in June when the bucks’ new antlers are starting to grow fast and show, we get serious with our mineral-and-camera game.

This week we’ll start running trail cameras at all our licks, and keep them rolling through mid-August, when mineral usage by deer tends to slow. During the next 2 months we’ll get thousands of deer images–almost too many!

Immediately we can see what kind of rack year it is shaping up to be, which is something every hunter wants and needs to know. We wade through the picture mountain of does and young bucks and start focusing on the mature deer. Any thick 8- or 10-pointer that looks to be growing to the 130-class catches our eye, and we really hone in on the odd buck in the 140 to 150 range.

We start making notes on the big deer we’ve located at our licks, and the days, times and locations of their travels. We cross-reference those notes with a huge aerial photo of the property tacked on the camp wall and voila, the patterns of the bucks and where to hunt them begin to come into focus.

How to Build a Mineral Lick

The experts at Anilogics say the ideal time to establish a new mineral site is early spring, but if you’re just getting around to it now worries. Deer will hit your sites hard for the next 2 to 3 summer months.


Locate your licks strategically. The corners and edges of crop fields and food plots are good spots, especially where thick cover is nearby. All our licks are fairly close to main deer trails, where bucks can veer over to check them with minimal effort. Two of our best sites are near creek crossings back in the woods.

Look for a flat spot with a good tree for a camera within 12 to 15 feet. Clear a spot six to eight feet in diameter, and rake away the old leaves and grass down to bare soil.

Clay soil is best because it binds and holds the minerals longer. If the soil is super sandy where you hunt, you might want to find some clay or denser dirt and mix it in the lick.

Through years of trial and error we’ve found that our deer prefer loose minerals over blocks. We’ve tried many brands and have the best luck with Mineral Dirt 180. The deer here in the Virginia Piedmont love it and flock to it in summer. You should experiment with several brands of minerals to see which deer prefer in your location.

mineral dirt 180

Apply and scatter a coat of loose minerals around a site—there is no set amount, sometimes we use a whole bag, especially during the first freshening of early summer. Sometimes we mix the minerals into the dirt with a rake or boot, sometimes not. It doesn’t seem to affect site usage by our deer either way.

We refresh our licks with a new application of minerals once every 3 or 4 weeks; I have friends that do it once every 2 weeks. If and when a trail camera reveals that noticeably fewer deer are showing up at a lick, time to refresh it. We run Spartan Go Cams at many or our sites, so they are easy to monitor from afar on our phone apps.

It is fun to watch how the most active sites grow. As deer dig for the minerals, the holes get bigger and deeper. We have a couple of years-old licks deep enough to hide half a buck!

Let me end with this important note. Here in Virginia, using minerals is legal during spring and summer, but not permitted from September 1 through the end of hunting season. State laws on using minerals and attractants vary across America, so check your game regulations carefully.

10 Fun Facts About Whitetail Fawns

fawns 1We celebrate the beautiful little creatures being born right now!

–A fawn weighs 4 to 8 pounds at birth; its weight doubles in 2 weeks.

–A fawn has a unique smell that the mother recognizes.

–A fawn can walk hours after birth.

–A newborn fawn spends its first weeks mostly alone and in hiding; it interacts with the mother doe only twice a day and nurses 2 or 3 times.

–A healthy fawn can outrun you when it’s only days old, but it takes 3 to 6 weeks before it can elude most predators.

–A fawn has about 300 white spots.

–25% of twin fawns have different fathers.

–”Multiple paternity” was found in triplet fawns at Auburn University. Three fawns born to the same doe had 3 different fathers!

–Twin fawns are the norm. In a prime habitat where the soil/feed/cover are outstanding, 20% to 30% of does might drop triplets. In a habitat with poor soils and feed, a doe is lucky to have and raise one fawn.

–A doe might give birth to 2 buck fawns or 2 doe fawns, but by the end of fawning season things average out to about 50-50 doe and buck fawns in a deer herd.


Why Bucks Rub Fence Posts

spring beard and buck old rub postThis cedar post was located a half-mile off the Milk River, in a huge Montana wheat field where, for decades, at night from Halloween through November, 20 or more deer came to feed, mingle and breed under cover of darkness.

I figure the post was set by some ranch hands back in the 1940s or 50s. I figure that 10 to 13 generations of Milk River bucks have rubbed it into a perfect hourglass with their antlers since then; I mean you couldn’t have carved and smoothed it any better. I surmise bucks love the rubbing post because it is tall and smooth (the fence wire rusted away long ago) and still smells wonderfully of cedar.

Tactically speaking, the post is a “signpost,” blazed by bucks in a high-traffic spot where does and other bucks can see the post from far away and veer over to touch it, lick it, smell it and rub more on pre-orbital and forehead scent on it. It is both a visual and olfactory communication post for deer in the area.

With the rancher’s blessing, I lashed a rope to the fence post and yanked it out of the ground with a pickup. I felt a little sad, but I wanted the rub for a souvenir. It probably wouldn’t have lasted another rutting season anyway; most of the nearby fence posts had been snapped in half by the rubbing of frenzied bucks over the years.

Finding a unique and alluring thing like that post is a big part of why I still love to go hunting. On any given day you never know what you’ll see or find out in the woods.

Will The 2019 Storms And Record Flooding Kill Whitetail Fawns?

deer floodsWill the storms and subsequent record flooding in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi and other central and south-central states kill fawns that are dropping right now and into June?

Biologists note that pregnant does are good mothers, and they sense when to move out of a flood zone. The primary concern for deer populations is for stressed does that are dropping or dropped fawns in areas of rising water levels, and the fawns were too young to move to higher ground.

This is surely the case in some flood-ravaged areas.

“We know it’s going to have a negative impact,” said William McKinley, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Deer Program coordinator. “Let’s just say that up front.”

But fawn survival in flood plains is typically high, even during flood years.

“A reduced fawn crop (in the Mississippi Delta) is what I expect to see,” said McKinley. How much? We have to wait and see.”