one-horned buck shedding

Mike, just why do bucks shed their antlers every year?—Joan, Missouri

Scientists have 2 theories. Bucks shed racks annually so they’ll have the ability to replace damaged antlers the next year. If a buck had to live his entire life with snapped tines or a broken main beam he couldn’t posture for does or dominance, or spar with rival bucks. A second theory suggests that bucks shed and grow new racks 10 to 20 inches larger in following years to keep pace with their increasing body size and weight as they mature from 2 ½ years of age to 3½ to 4 ½, and so on.

Some more interesting shed facts:

–Some weeks after the post-rut (December or January) bucks’ decreasing levels of testosterone cause an “abscission layer” to form between antlers and their pedicles. As the connective tissue dissolves, antlers get loose and fall off.

–Bucks cast their racks as early as Christmas in some northern states and as late as March or even April farther south. The antler drop varies widely across North America, though January and February are the primary months.

–Weather, snow depth and especially food availability can influence when bucks lose their antlers. During this brutal winter, bucks in many areas will be stressed and drop their antlers earlier than normal.