Can Deer Antlers Help Cure Cancer?

summer antlers cam pic.jpg 6-08According to an international study lead by Chinese researchers and published in the journal Science , a system of cancer-related genes allow deer to grow a new set of antlers every year, but the animals rarely die of cancer thanks to other tumor-suppressing genes in the body that keep the aggressive cells in check.

An antler is a complex organ of bone, blood vessels, nerves, muscle and velvet. “Deer can completely regenerate (this) organ. No other mammal has that ability,” said Wang Wen, the study’s lead author.

The researchers also noted that while deer might get tumors all over their body, the growths do almost no harm and disappear with time.

This jibes with what we have posted on BIG DEER blog about tumors and growths on whitetails here in the States. Unless growths occur on the face an restrict breathing and/or vision, scientists say they are rarely fatal.

The study says that some 19 genes work together in a deer’s body to allow antler cells to thrive without developing into cancer in other parts of animal’s body.

In a commentary article in the same issue of Science, Stanford University researchers said the discovery could help scientists develop new drugs to battle cancer. They also noted that the new findings related to antlers could help with tissue engineering and regenerative medicine in humans.


How Do Deer Handle Summer Heat?

summer deer webIt’s about to get really hot and humid–how will does with fawns, and bucks growing racks handle the heat?

Temperatures above normal during summer causes some stress in deer. The amount of stress is dependent on the quality of the habitat. For example, deer consume more water than any other mineral (yes, water is a mineral, a naturally occurring substance) and the amount of water deer need increases during periods of above normal temperatures. If water is limited by either quantity or quality, many of a deer’s bodily functions are limited, such as a buck transferring calcium to growing antlers, or a doe producing milk for fawns.

Deer can usually travel to find water. But if they are forced out of their home range to find water, which is rare, it requires huge amounts of energy that can’t be used for other bodily processes such as antler and milk production.

But in the end, unless there is a prolonged drought in your area, summer stress rarely has a lasting impact on deer herds. As the seasons and weather change, deer can usually deal with it just fine.


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.