Here’s hoping your deer season was as successful as you hoped it would be. If you have been sitting down to meals of chicken-fried backstrap steaks or a tasty roast or found your breakfast of eggs tasting especially good with rounds or links of venison sausage on the side, you have for sure been successful.
If you’re anxiously waiting for a call from the taxidermist telling you the mount of your trophy is ready for pick-up and hanging on the wall, pat yourself on the back; it’s been a good year for you.
You may be having withdrawal symptoms now that season is over and you really wish you get to spend just one more frosty morning in a deer stand. You’re not alone in this. Scores of hunters feel the same way.
What can deer hunters do as a form of recovery to help you get over your addiction to chasing deer? Here’s a suggestion – head for your woods and begin looking for shed antlers of the big buck you hunted all season but never showed up. Now that antlers are beginning to drop, the next several weeks offer the opportunity to locate sheds before the mice and squirrels begin gnawing on them.
Here’s what happens in the world of the deer. Buck deer drop their antlers in late winter or early spring. Soon after losing their headgear, they start growing a new set of antlers they’ll have until this time next year. This new set begins as fuzzy knobs growing on the pedicles which are located on the buck’s head between his eyes and ears. The newly formed antlers are soft and subject to damage and for this reason, bucks are shy and reclusive; they’re protective of this new growth.
A couple of months before shedding antlers, bucks use them to hook and thrash bushes, brush and small saplings and to fight other bucks to establish dominance. Bushes and bucks are in no danger of being gored and thrashed in spring and summer because he is protecting his newly forming soft antlers.
Velvet is described as “vascular skin that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone.” This amazing material causes the antler it covers to grow at an amazing rate. In fact, deer antlers grow faster than any other mammal bone. This fast rate of growth actually is a handicap to a buck because of the incredible nutritional demand on deer to re-grow antlers annually.
Once the antlers achieve their full potential for the year, usually by mid-September in our part of the world, the velvet has served its purpose and as it dries and is rubbed off on bushes by the buck, the antler bone actually dies and here’s something I read that gave me pause. What deer hunters see when that big buck comes slipping by the stand is an animal sporting a head full of dead bone.
Where should you look for the best chance to find shed antlers? If you planted a food plot prior to deer season, searching the plot or trails leading to the plot can often result in a bit of good luck when you find tines sticking up out of the grass.
Another good place to look is where a trail crosses a low fence or stream small enough for the buck to jump across. Antlers can sometimes be jarred loose when the buck lands on the other side of the fence or stream.
So for folks puzzled about deer antlers, maybe this bit of information will answer your questions.
There is a measure of excitement to hold in your hands the head gear of a big buck that will whet your appetite for what he’ll look like once hunting seasons roll around again this coming fall.
The entire process of bucks growing velvet covered delicate antlers to them becoming hardened and eventually being shed just to do it all again every year is one of nature’s most amazing and fascinating feats.