How Deer Antlers Grow

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In April, as the days continue to get longer and daylight increases, new antlers begin to grow from buds that form on the pedicels on a buck’s head. Typically within a month, main beams and brow tines begin to sprout and split off. A month or so later, in early June, second and third tines will form.

Throughout early summer, the fledgling racks grow fast and furious. Antler tissue is the fastest growing tissue known to man. 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.

According to Missouri scientist Dr. Grant Woods, 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.

Those are the general rules, but Grant points out that 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 during July,” he says. The photo above was taken on July 28 a few years ago.

Click for more interesting facts about summer antlers.

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,” notes Woods. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.”

By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks 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.

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. Bucks have been known to turn their heads and peel or even eat the dry velvet off their new racks.

Mid-September on, 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 the days grow shorter and their testosterone begins to fade and the fascinating antler cycle begins all over again.

Study: Trees Know When Deer Feed On Them

deer browseScience continues to uncover interesting things in the deer world.

The Deer Forest Blog reported that a recent study found that some trees know when they are being browsed by deer…and they put up a defense mechanism to stop it.

The study looked at beech and maple saplings that comprised the regenerating under-story in a forest, and thus were often browsed by deer. The researchers simulated deer browsing by clipping buds off the saplings and then applying deer saliva to the wounds.

They found that the saliva caused the saplings to increase production of salicylic acid, which signals a tree to produce more tannins. Tannins are bitter and not palatable to deer. The scientists concluded that the production of tannins may deter future browsing by deer on those saplings. Saplings that were clipped off but not treated with deer saliva did not produce tannins or initiate other defense metabolites.

Bottom line: Some species of saplings that are browsed by deer initiate a defense mechanism so that the trees are literally not eaten alive by the animals, thus perpetuating the growth of under-story and the health of a forest.

Fascinating! Isn’t nature grand?

Southeast Deer Study Group 2017

Southeast-Deer-Study-Group-450x337The Southeast Deer Study Group meets annually for researchers and managers to share the latest information on whitetail deer. The 2017 study just concluded last week in St. Louis, and here are a few of their findings:

As always there was interesting new info on the whitetail rut. Researchers from Mississippi State’s Forest Resources revealed a study that shows when bucks of similar age and body weight are present and available, does in estrus prefer to breed with the buck with the largest antlers.

Another finding confirms why during peak rut you need to keep as many trail cameras rolling across your land as possible: Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia noted that you’ll get the most cam photos of mature bucks during peak breeding days.

There was new info on Southern whitetail herds, many of which were established from northern deer that were trucked in and stocked in parts of Dixie many years ago. This caught my interest, as I recently hunted the rut in late January in south Alabama.

Researchers from Miss. State studied dozens of herds in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and found that only 1 deer (from Alabama) showed a genetic link to its northern source (Michigan). While Southern deer have all Southern blood nowadays,  they still rut more than 2 months later than northern deer in some parts of the South.

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have been studying whitetail vision for a couple of decades. Their latest finding: A deer’s eyes and vision are acutely adapted to detect movement at dawn and dusk, which makes perfect sense since those are the times when does and bucks are on their feet and moving the most.

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Lastly, my favorite new finding that in no way will improve your hunting, but which is another of nature’s fascinating trivia: A wildlife student from Georgia was able to identify 28 unique fawns out of 1,454 trail camera images by their unique spot patterns on their little hides!

Texas Unicorn Buck: Biggest Unicorn Whitetail Buck Ever?

STexas unicornThanks to our friend Wren for alerting me to the most unique “unicorn buck” ever. I’ve never seen a multi-pointed third beam–5 points–of this size protruding from a buck’s face; this could well be the biggest unicorn buck ever recorded in America! The original post is from the South Texas Hunting Association Facebook page:

Our amigo Troy Calaway from TWC Hunt Co. with a very unique buck with a third main beam that grew out between both eyes…congrats on an awesome trophy!

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So what causes this rarity? Scientists say a unicorn tine is caused by trauma to the front facial bone of a buck, such as a tine puncture from another buck. Strangely, another beam then grows out from there.

One thing for sure: This Texas uni buck will make one of the coolest shoulder mounts ever, awesome Troy! I’m hoping Troy will see this and send me the entire story of this amazing deer.

Pennsylvania Bowhunter Shoots 8.5-Year-Old Buck

PA 8.5 buck 1

The Deer-Forest Study blog, written by biologists and researchers from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is one of my favorites, and I monitor it weekly. Biologist Jeannine Fleegle posted this one earlier this week:

A couple of weeks ago, we got a phone call from a hunter reporting a tagged deer. Nothing out of the ordinary about that this time of year. 

(Note: The PA researchers tag some wild does and bucks every year and monitor their movements with GPS and the like; the tagged deer are legal game, and hunters who shoot and report them get a reward.)

When we looked up the tag, we discovered that this buck (11144) was tagged in 2010 as a yearling, which means he was 8.5 years old!  The hunter was nice enough to forward some photos and (the buck) was rather impressive. 

This buck was harvested during the (2016) archery season…. But he was available for harvest as a 7.5-year-old, 6.5-year-old, 5.5-year-old, 4.5-year-old, 3.5-year-old, and 2.5-year-old for every deer season (which) means this buck outsmarted hunters for 6 years.  If he was a legal buck as a yearling, that would make it 7!  And let’s not forget, he was an antlerless deer for one year too.

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…8.5 years old is pretty old for a buck. To give you a little perspective, less than 1% of bucks harvested are older than 7.5 years old. 

The hunter who harvested this buck was pretty awesome too.  She declined the $100 reward and asked that it be used on future research. I guess Buck 11144 was reward enough (for her).