We may not like it. But it happens every year. Deer season must come to a close. Then, bucks shed their antler...and we move in to pick them up. Here’s a little more insight on how deer grow and shed antlers as well as how to find them once on the ground.
THE ANTLER GROWING PROCESS
The antler-growing process begins almost as soon as the antlers are dropped. Sometime in early spring, velvet-covered antlers begin to protrude from the pedicles. Growth peaks in late August throughout most of the whitetail range. Most bucks shed their velvet between mid-August and mid-September. Increasing levels of testosterone cause their velvet to peel off. Then—in late winter after the rut is over—bucks shed their antlers.
HOW BUCKS SHED THEIR ANTLERS
Whitetails shed their antlers like many species in the deer family. There are several factors that play into this biological- and chemical-based occurrence.
Antler drop is influenced by genetics. Every subspecies of whitetail is a little different on when they let go of their headgear. Depending on what subspecies of whitetail you hunt will influence when they shed.
Geographical location also plays a role because it dictates climate. Depending on where the deer are will dictate what weather conditions they are exposed to. Extreme cold causes deer to shed their antlers sooner than milder conditions.
Nutrition and food source availability factor in, too. Deer suffering from malnutrition are subject to shedding sooner than healthier whitetails. Years with severe mast crop failures—like this year—can be a major player if no other food sources are available.
The fourth—and final major factor—is stress from the rut. Years that produce harsh rutting conditions for bucks cause bucks to shed sooner than usual. Areas with uneven buck-to-doe ratios dump bigger loads on bucks. Does get missed because there aren’t enough bucks to breed them in a timely manner. Therefore, the rut gets stretched out and lasts longer.
Once late winter arrives, the antler base loosens, and then the antler falls off. All of the factors above cause the connective tissue beneath the base of the antler to degenerate even faster.
WHERE TO FIND SHED ANTLERS
Shed hunting has become the latest buzz in the deer hunting world. You have to put miles on your boots to find them. But put the right miles. There are certain areas that tend to produce more sheds than others. Here are those prime spots.
South- and east-facing slopes
Fingers of trees
Pockets of mast crop
TIPS TO FIND SHED ANTLERS
It’s best to hunt smart, not hard. The same goes for hunting shed antlers. Just like there are better places to look, there are better ways to find them. Keep these tips in mind.
Whitetails make the hunting world go round. Josh Honeycutt, deer hunting editor and "Brow Tines and Backstrap" blogger, knows a fair bit about killing mature deer. He was raised up hunting the river bottoms of Kentucky. And he still hunts there—among other places—to this day.
Follow along as he shares his adventures, experiences and knowledge of the white-tailed deer.