I looked off my back porch the other morning and saw a single deer feeding on weed sprouts on our recently mowed lake berm. He was 300 yards away, and although I could not count tines with the naked eye, I could not miss the tall, thick, velvety beams. One glimpse through my binocular and it was clear this was going to be an above-average to exceptional deer for this part of the Virginia Piedmont. My excitement grew as I realized the rack had a good 6 more weeks to grow. How much bigger will those antlers get?

June and July: Zoom Months for Antlers

Velvet antler is the fastest-growing tissue in the mammal world. In mid-summer, each beam and tine may grow a quarter-inch per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones, photoperiod and the availability of good forage.

According to Missouri whitetail scientist Dr. Grant Woods, a buck’s rack will have developed most of its points by mid-June, and most of the beam length will fill in by late June into early July. “Those are general rules, but the growth of individual racks can vary,” he says. “Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others will add a bunch to their rack during July.”

July is the ultimate zoom month. Fast-growing 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 a small rack is easily detected by thermal imaging devices,” notes Woods. That is precisely why I’ll do a lot of night scouting with a thermal monocular this month, monitoring the antler growth and movements of my target lake buck. I use the thermal optic primarily for predator hunting, but it doubles nicely for deer scouting on sultry July and August nights.

August: Velvet Winds Down

Sometime during the first 10 days of August, velvet antlers begin to turn from soft and pliable to hardened bone. “A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen and bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal and streamlined diameter,” notes Woods. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much more beam or tine growth.”

By the middle of August, most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks will shed the velvet, and the fun begins. With the fur off their racks, bucks are ready to preen and spar in anticipation of the long-awaited rut. And we’re ready with our bows and arrows to get out there and get after them.

Which reminds me. I’ve already hung one tree stand on the lake berm where my target buck is coming out of the nearby woods, and after another month of scouting and glassing I’ll likely hang a couple more, maybe hide a ground blind somewhere strategic. If my projections are right, the lake buck I’ve got eyes on will go 150 inches and maybe more, we’ll see.