Antlers are likely the first thing you notice about a male deer when you see him. If you have seen the majestic antlers, you have probably wondered how much they weigh. These bony growths are one of the most distinctive and noticeable features of these mammals – and all animals with antlers, for that matter. Deer, elk, moose, caribou, and nearly all other Cervidae family members grow and shed their antlers every year. But ever wondered “Why is that deer shedding antlers?”
A deer is unique among mammals because of one of its abilities and can regenerate a whole part of its body – the antlers.
Antlers enthrall even meat-loving hunters. Male elk, deer, and moose lose their antlers each winter, but they grow them back in the summer. They occur every year because of the male body’s seasonal changes. Deer shed their antlers in a variety of ways. How are they able to re-grow?
This article will answer all these questions. But before we learn about why a deer sheds the antlers, let’s get to know what antlers are.
What are Antlers?
Each year, a deer or other animal shedding its antlers will produce a pair of branched horns made entirely of bone. The main constituent of antlers is protein and water. A silky, hair-like material called velvet covers the antlers, containing blood vessels and nerves during antler development.
As a result of chemical and hormonal changes under various environmental conditions, the antler hardens before the velvet falls off.
Antlers last only a couple of months before they are shed for the most part, and you will only find them on male deer, except for reindeer.
Why Do Deer Have Antlers?
To start with, let’s answer the reason for deer having antlers. Deer have antlers to establish their dominance over other deer for survival and reproduction in the first place to survive and reproduce. It is prevalent for adult bucks to engage in head-on collisions with the female deer, using them as weapons as they crash into one another.
Rarely the deer antlers can become entangled. If the bucks deer cannot disentangle themselves, they will starve to death. Antlers also signal female deer, informing them of a buck’s strength and overall health. The antler’s growth depends on three factors: good genes, a healthy diet, and age.
Antler growth can be slowed or stopped entirely by any injury caused due to a fight or due to deer sickness. Only a fully grown and robust buck will be able to develop the massive rack of antlers with numerous points that trophy hunters desire.
According to sciencing.com, deer use antlers as weapons during stag fights for mating rights. Reindeers use antlers to dig up food that has been buried under the snow and compete with bulls for access to essential winter resources.
It takes a lot of energy to grow an antler. Prioritizing body size over antler size is more important in young deer because even the largest rack will not help a skinny deer to survive. A mature buck’s body can devote more resources to antler growth. His antlers will get longer and more spread out as he gets older. Male and female caribou have antlers. Other deer species males don’t have them.
Calcium, an extremely scarce mineral, is needed to grow antlers made up of bone. Antlers rich in calcium aren’t left to rot on the forest floor when they fall off; scavengers eat them.
Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
Deer shed their antlers and grow a new set every year. Before the growing cycle can begin again, it takes fourteen to twenty-one days for the deer to drop their antlers entirely. There are many variables to consider when it comes to when bucks lose their antlers: their age and location with the prevailing climate.
Why Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
The development and growth are determined by the photoperiod (number of daylight hours in a day) and testosterone hormone levels rather than by temperature. Antler drop is also a thing.
High testosterone levels are required for antlers to be solidly attached to a buck’s skull. Antlers get loose and, as a result, drop off when testosterone levels fall.
The tissue of the bone has a honeycomb structure that makes up antlers. Pedicles are the mounting points on a deer’s head from which the antlers grow. These pedicles are where the antlers fall out. During the first year of a deer’s life, pedicles grow on the animal’s forehead. His first “branch” appears in the third year after he begins to grow small shafts. In time, the antlers of a deer will grow longer, thicker, and more numerous.
One layer of skin, referred to as “velvet,” covers the antlers during their growth phase, providing nutrition to the developing antlers so that they can build bone mass. As per ScienceEast, Growth Factor-1 and amino acids, minerals, and proteins are in abundance in this velvet (a protein hormone similar in molecular structure to insulin).
For the next 2 to 4 months, the antlers will grow rapidly. Increased male hormone testosterone slows antler growth in the summer, as does the narrowing of velvet-circumscribed veins and arteries, cutting off the antlers’ vital blood and nutrient supply. The deer rubbing his antlers against trees helps the velvet deteriorate and fall off. Until the end of his days, the same thing happens every year.
Testosterone levels fall after the rut period, causing the antlers to fall off. In the absence of testosterone, the antler base (pedicle) weakens to the point where the antlers fall off a buck. Within 24 to 48 hours, antlers firmly attached the previous day can weaken and fall off. Deer in apex physical condition are more likely to drop their antlers later than deer that are weaker or injured.
Do Deer Shed Their Antlers Every Year?
After the breeding or mating season, which occurs in the fall, deer shed their antlers every year from early winter to March.
Yes, most deer breeds shed their antlers each year. Like all other ungulates, mule deer and whitetail deer shed their antlers yearly. The entire process of a falling antler takes between 24 and 48 hours. When their hormones change, the whole process could take 2-3 weeks.
Following that, antler growth and regeneration occur throughout the summer season until mid-fall. Even in the dead of winter, a buck requires a lot of food to stay healthy.
It happens when the rut period is over. Honeycomb bone tissue is used to make the antler. The testosterone level drops when the rut period is over, and the antler tissue breaks down. In general, the entire process takes about two weeks.
When Do Male Deer Lose Their Antlers?
Bucks shed their antlers every year during the winter.
You only find antlers on male deer, and almost all breeds shed them every year. The timing may vary slightly, but they are cyclical when testosterone levels fall. As a result, they shed at roughly the same time each year. The falling season begins in January and lasts until April. It may take a little longer for the fawns to reach maturity. By early summer, they have started to re-grow.
Each antler has a unique DNA. As a result, the doe passed it down to their offspring. Some buck’s tines are pointy, while others’ tines are long. Some have a very complex shape as well. All of these are one-of-a-kind, just as our fingerprints are.
Look Out When You Go Shed Hunting
It would help if you approached shed hunting the same way as deer hunting; the only difference is the deer’s late-winter habits. When hunting for deer antler sheds, you should try to go far away and not stay in one place for too long. Instead, you want to search your hunting area to see which bucks survived the hunting season, but if your goal is to find deer sheds, areas, where hunting is not permitted may be better options.
It increases your chances of finding a large number of antlers. For example, if there are squirrels in the area, you must act fast because they can chew a pair in a week.
To conserve energy, deer spend most of their time in the bedding area during the winter. As a result, you must comb the bedding area without scaring them away. Go during the day when they are out for feeding. Mature bucks never follow the pack’s rules. Swing by any fences and chasms you encounter if you deviate from the path. They loosen up as the days get closer to when a buck will lose his antlers.
Deer like to bask in the sun and enjoy the warmth on cold winter days; they stay until they are no longer afraid.
Many novice shed hunters fail to inspect the ground for fallen antlers thoroughly. Go slowly and search the area on foot. If you walk slowly, you can discern antlers from broken sticks and stalks of corn. You need to train your eyes to search for separate antlers rather than the whole antler.
Identify the specific plants deer prefer. You must look closely at the field of beans and corn. These foods are high in nutrients. Deer should have started growing antlers by summer, so you can only fetch in the winter.
You could also provide supplemental feed to local deer if you own or manage your property. For example, keeping deer close to a specific food source increases the likelihood that they will drop antlers in easily accessible locations.
Those who hunt deer on foot in the winter can have a great time collecting antlers as they walk around the hunting area.
When Do Whitetail Deer Shed Antlers?
Male white-tailed buck shed their antlers and grow new ones in response to the length of daylight and the time of year. Antler growth begins in the spring and accelerates as the season changes to summer. Whitetail deer antlers are made of bone that grows rapidly, unlike other animal tissues. A mature buck’s antlers can grow as much as two inches a week during the summer. The antlers are protected and fed by a velvety layer that is soft and pliable.
The velvet on deer antlers dries up and falls off as autumn approaches, just in time for the breeding season. There are fewer daylight hours, and the buck’s testosterone levels drop as the breeding season ends. The antler-pedicel connection weakens as the antler gets smaller. The antlers finally drop off.
Shedding occurs during the winter months. Bucks’ antler shed times vary by location due to factors such as length of daylight and seasonal changes. Antlers shed earlier in Georgia white-tailed deer than New York bucks.
How Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
Antlers get hard in the summer season and then drop their velvet. The antler’s growth comes to a halt and reaches its growth cycle’s end. When the velvet’s blood supply is depleted, it dries out and crumbles to the ground. Bucks may speed up the process when rubbing their antlers against trees or brush because the dried velvet irritates their skin. New antlers fully emerge by early September, which is well before the mating season of the deer family.
The rut period is when deer consistently rub their antlers to ward off aggression and strengthen their necks in preparation for fighting with one another during the deer breeding season. Antler Rubbing is frequently compared to boxers punching a punching bag in preparation for fights, which is an accurate comparison.
Sparring matches can sometimes escalate into all-out battles, even deathmatches, both before and during the rut. The most dominant bucks and bulls earn and defend breeding rights during these sparring sessions, establishing a pecking order. These competitions are most likely the primary reason male deer develop antlers.
Final Words – Deer Shedding Antlers
Deer antlers are one of the most dramatic examples of male prowess in the animal kingdom. Humans have highly regarded them since ancient times.
If you’re out in the woods and not looking for deer sheds, consider doing so. It’s a rare treat to find one, but it’s worth the effort. The best time to look for them is from January to April. Aim for places where the deer spend the most time, especially those resting their heads. Want to improve your chances of scoring while hunting deer, check out our guide to find the best rifle scope for deer hunting!
Start in open areas like fields and meadows before going into the woods, where sheds are more likely to be found. Whether or not you find antlers, you can still enjoy being in nature and the fresh air!