Deer Racks: What Causes a Weak-Side Antler?

md dan uneven rackOur friend Danny from Maryland sent this picture and asked this question:

Is there any chance this deer’s antlers will eventually even out? Or will he most likely always have an uneven rack based off his genes? He doesn’t appear to have suffered any injury to cause this.

The vast majority of whitetail bucks grow even or largely symmetrical and typical antlers. Although the buck in this picture may not appear hurt now, there is a strong likelihood that he sustained some injury earlier this year.

“I think the buck in the picture was injured,” says QDMA biologist Kip Adams. “His left antler looks normal, just minus a brow tine.  His right antler has a good-sized brow and then 3 stubby points, which are very common from an injury.  I’m guessing the injury was to his antler but it could have been to the body.”

Kips notes that the pedicle, or base, of the weak side antler looks fine “so I’m guessing the injury was to his antler, and that suggests if he survives to next year he will not carry the injury with him. He’ll be easy to follow this fall with his unique rack. Good luck in the woods.–Kip


Buck with Massive Stomach Growth (Hernia)

growth 1Hi Mike: I found your website and see that you have a lot of knowledge about deer. I’m not a hunter, but love the herd of 9 deer that frequent our yard on most days.

I saw on your blog a post about a deer with a massive growth. I am sending this email and pictures of a huge growth that is on one of our bucks. Have you ever seen anything like this? As you can see it is a huge growth/tumor/abscess hanging from his abdominal area.

I am hoping you can give me an idea of what this might be. It has been there for about 3 weeks…started out much smaller and over the weeks has continued to grow. He is still mobile, doesn’t appear to be in any pain, and has his usual appetite. Thank you for any insight!–Addie

I immediately suspected the buck has a hernia. I ran the pictures by QDMA biologist Kip Adams who said, “I think you’re right, this is a hernia.”

growth 2In deer a hernia occurs when internal organs or tissues pop through an opening in the muscular wall that surrounds the abdomen, but are still covered by skin. Potential causes of a hernia include trauma (being hit by a car) or in the case of a doe, giving birth. Bucks have been known to get hernias as they push and fight violently in the rut.

While Addie says the buck is still mobile and does not to appear to be in pain, the prognosis for this deer is not good. The protruding organs and tissues are unlikely to go back to their normal position in the abdomen. The mass will impact the buck’s ability to move and survive.

“I believe it will be the demise of the buck, likely in the next 6-12 months,” says Kip. “If there was more of a constriction associated with the hernia he would die much quicker.”

Deer with Huge Growth: What is This Thing?

doe huge growth 1Blogger Danny sent this image he got recently, and here’s what he said about it:

“I sent this picture to a local game warden who sent it to one of his biologist friends who thinks it is a cutaneous fibroma caused by a virus. I looked back on your blog at a similar post, and that is what you said was the real name for the growths or warts can appear on deer.

doe huge growth closeup

“But I’m not 100% certain that this isn’t her eyeball bulging. I remember last fall seeing a doe in the front yard that appeared to have a swollen eyeball, but nothing near the size of what it is now. That thing is huge!

“But I guess it’s possible the growth could just be covering her eye.  Whatever it is, it’s sad to see in real life when she’s walking through the yard. This doe seems to be healthy, other than the growth, and she has twin fawns with her in some pictures.  They seem to be doing fine too.–Danny

Yes, it looks to be a cutaneous fibroma, a massive one. I ran the picture by QDMA biologist Kip Adams who said, “Wow, I’ve never seen one that large!

Kip goes on to say that fibromas don’t usually bother deer or cause them harm, unless they lead to a secondary infection. They are like warts so sometimes deer can lose them. But Kip doubts this doe will lose this growth given its size.

Another whitetail biologist, Dr. Mick Hellickson, agrees that cutaneous fibromas are rarely fatal “unless they occur near the eyes and block a deer’s vision.”

I’d say this growth will almost surely lead to the doe’s demise. It’s hard to survive in a deer’s world (dodging cars, avoiding predators, etc.) with one good eye and one carrying a massive blob.

Would you shoot this doe during an antlerless season and put her out of what is surely some misery? I would.

Would you eat the meat if you did? I would not. Biologists say that deer with fibroma growths are generally still edible. But even though the mass is on her face, who knows what kind of infection is in there that could eventually spread throughout her body.

BTW, if you do shoot any sick or deformed deer like this and don’t plan to eat it, be sure to contact a local game warden and explain the situation to avoid any wanton waste laws. Take pictures.

Back to the doe with the massive growth. Sad, nature sure is cruel sometimes. I have asked Danny to update us on her condition throughout summer and fall.

3 Tips to Age Summer Bucks

iowa buck age

From Cody: I recently put up my trail cam and captured a picture of a deer I have never seen before. I have more than one photo of this deer so I know he is continuously coming back into my area. I can’t seem to age him and was wondering what your thoughts were? I am from the great hunting state of Iowa and also wondering if this is a normal size for a buck this time of the year.


Whitetail bucks can be tricky to judge in late spring and summer when they are happy, lazy, fat and stress-free, especially in high-producing agricultural areas with great nutrition. Many people overestimate the age of a buck now.

I ran this picture by top whitetail biologist Grant Woods and asked him to provide some advice for aging summer bucks (Grant’s 3 tips in bold below).

Cody: It appears this buck’s neck merges with his chest well above his brisket.  His chest doesn’t sag below where his legs meet his shoulders and his back and belly appear straight.  These are all signs of a younger buck.

I estimate this buck is 2 years old, but wouldn’t be surprised if he was a great yearling!  If he is 2, he has normal antler and body development for a buck that lives where there are plenty of quality groceries.– Enjoy Creation, Grant


June 20, 2016: Strawberry Moon & Summer Solstice

strawberry-moon-squareWe talk a lot about moon phases on BIG DEER Blog because I believe the moons in the fall especially the full one in November sparks big bucks to move and hence is a great week to hunt.

My ongoing interest in the moon turned up this: Today’s full moon, which coincides with the summer solstice, is a rare and once-in-a-lifetime event. The last time the full moon lined up with the longest day of the year was back in June 1967. Today there will be approximately 17 hours of light.

This Full Strawberry Moon gets its name from the Algonquin tribes, who took it as a signal to gather strawberries and ripening fruit.

As far as fish and game go, some lunar predictions report that fishing would be best today, June 20, so you might want to slip out of work early and wet a line.

In the northern hemisphere, starting tomorrow, the days begin to get shorter and the official countdown to deer season 2016 begins. While whitetail antlers are growing rapidly now, the deceasing daylight over the next 6 weeks will cause them to start to harden in early August. After that, once bucks shed velvet in September, it’s game on. Soon in our annual BIG DEER moon and rut-hunting guide, we’ll analyze the moon phases that really matter for your hunting in late October and November 2016.

BTW get out there tonight and look for the Strawberry Moon. If you miss it, you’ll have to wait another 46 years before you can see the full moon on the summer solstice because it will not happen again until June 21, 2062.