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The dropping of the antlers may take place within 24 to 48 hours, but the entire shedding process may take as long as two to three weeks before the antlers actually fall off. Then, throughout the summer, new antlers will regenerate.
The shedding and regrowth of a deer’s antlers is an amazing process.
Read on and let’s take a deeper look into deer antlers, how they are used, and the shedding process in general…
What are those antlers used for anyway?
Male deer, or “bucks,” use their antlers as a weapon, whether to compete for a mate, or to defend themselves. They also use their antlers to display their physiological fitness and to show off their fertility and strength.
Bucks will violently clash their sets of antlers during the breeding season, or “the rut,” to display their strength and dominance. This can sometimes lead to broken antlers, bloody deer, and sometimes even death.
Because of the competitiveness that takes place during this time, bucks with the largest set of antlers (referred to as a “rack) often position themselves to be in the right place at the right time, as a female deer (doe) comes into estrous and becomes ready to be bred.
Increasing levels of testosterone, in addition to decreasing daylight hours, are among the major factors contributing to antler growth during the summer months.
Considered as the most extravagant display of a male deer’s sexual traits, these antlers grow much faster than any other bones among mammals.
A deer’s antlers grow from an attachment section on its skull known as a pedicle. Antler growth starts at the tip and initially forms as a cartilage, which is later replaced by a bone-like tissue that is similar to a honeycomb.
During the growth period, the pedicle is covered with a highly vascular skin, called “velvet,” that supplies nutrients and oxygen to the developing bones.
During summer, deer antlers grow rapidly within two to four months and – according to Peter Yang, PhD, associate professor of orthopedics at Stanford University School of Medicine, they can grow up to 2 cm per day. During this process, the antlers eventually mineralize and harden.
But then, once peak levels of testosterone are reached, a deceleration of the growth rate of a buck’s antlers occurs.
During this period of peaking testosterone, the veins and arteries surrounding the velvet cut blood flow and supply of nutrients to the antlers. Because of lack of blood and nutrients, the velvet that encases the antlers wastes away and falls off when the deer rub their antlers on trees. This is often referred to as the shedding of velvet.
Because of their rapid growth rate, antlers may be a disadvantage because there is an enormous need for good nutrition in order for a buck to regrow them every year. But, this can also signify a buck’s metabolic efficiency and superior food gathering capability.
So, now you know how they grow, but why do deer antlers eventually fall off?
WHY do deer shed their antlers?
So, we’ve explored how the antlers grow, but why do deer shed them later on?
In exactly the opposite way that bucks grow their antlers, the shedding of those same antlers among bucks is triggered by decreasing testosterone following the rut, as well as increasing minutes of daylight.
In the wild, injuries and nutrition also play a huge part in the antler shedding process. For example, a healthier buck loses its antlers at a much later period compared to a weaker deer.
The pedicle, or mounting point, where these antlers are attached and grow from, is also the location where the antlers break off.
Just as rising testosterone levels triggered antler growth at the pedicle, a drop in testosterone levels will cause the pedicle to weaken and eventually, the antlers will fall off.
WHEN do deer shed their antlers?
The particular time a buck will discard its antlers may be largely determined by its individual shedding cycle. This is separate from other bucks’ antler cycles and is possibly centered on its birth date.
In Mississippi, a study conducted among individual penned bucks found that they shed their racks about the same week every year. Other research studies on captive deer discovered that bucks often shed both horns three days apart of each other.
Most bucks will retain their antlers through the winter and into the early Spring and then start shedding their racks anywhere between January and April. Some bucks may shed their antlers earlier or later depending on the maturity of the deer, its physical condition, and the habitat where they live.
Photoperiodism is the physiological response of different organisms to the length of night or day. This happens both in plants and animals. Among bucks, photoperiods occur alongside the testosterone to grow the antlers and define when they will fall off.
Testosterone levels increase during the development and the ensuing shedding of the antler velvet. As the seasons start to change, the biological reaction of antler shedding is activated.
Genes also help define early or late growth and shedding of antlers, mainly due to family history which may have an influence on the overall health of the deer.
In general, a deer will lose its antlers during the same time period each year, except for other factors such as health conditions or injuries.
Emotional factors can also play a part in the deer antler shedding process. Just like humans, deer experience social anxiety which may have a negative impact on their health condition and lead to earlier shedding.
Other factors such as weather, altitude, and food availability may also influence when antler shedding takes place.
Some scientists believe that the shedding process is necessary in order for bucks to replace broken or damaged antlers. If a deer has to live with a broken beam or cracked tines his entire life, he will not have the necessary tool to fight off rivals or have the stance to attract does. New racks can grow anywhere from ten to thirty inches bigger every year and this allows bucks to also keep up with their increasing girth and weight as they mature.
How long does it take a deer to shed its antlers?
The duration of the shedding process all depends on how fast a buck decreases its testosterone levels. In most cases, this may happen in less than two to three days.
Although the antlers may appear solidly fixed, they may start to loosen up rapidly as the mating season progresses and natural physiological cycles happen.
After a while, an abrupt jerking actions or a sudden scare from nearby predator can cause enough force to cause the antlers to fall off. The muscle is no longer tough enough to support the weight of the rack, and as a result, the antlers simply fall off.
As the connecting tissue withers and shrinks, the antlers become loose and fall off. In areas with an early mating season, testosterone levels of bucks will decrease earlier, causing some bucks to cast their antlers off at an earlier time than usual. A harsh winter with a tons of snow can also cause stressed deer to shed racks earlier.
Compared to younger bucks, many older bucks shed antlers earlier. After the mating season, the decreased levels of testosterone cause the formation of an abscission layer between the pedicles and antlers.
In general, bucks in peak physical condition will hang on to their racks much longer than weaker bucks. Their prime health allows them to have stronger tissue and maintain a better physical condition causing a higher than normal antler to head stability.
Late shedding may also be caused by several other factors. Changing deer populations in a specific location may play a large part in later shedding. Low population indicates antler shedding may not reach its peak until late March or April.
First year bucks that reach the right rearing weight during their first winter will experience the estrous cycle, the recurring biological changes that are produced by reproductive hormones. This will keep the testosterone level of a deer higher for a longer period of time, which may lengthen the amount of time a buck will keep its antlers.
Other Facts About Antler Shedding
Individual deer also have unique shedding patterns. It is also worth knowing that some equatorial deer never shed their antlers regardless of the condition.
In the past, people believed that deer look for a more secluded area to shed their antlers, away from does and rival bucks to avoid public display of their loss of virility.
But, researchers debunk that idea saying that bucks are probably oblivious of when and where they will lose their antlers, although some may follow a regular pattern depending on the conditions.
Some deer will drop both antlers, if undisturbed, almost on top of each other each year. However, some bucks will drop their racks anywhere from a hundred to four hundred yards apart from each other.
The process of deer antler growth as well as the shedding process is truly an amazing occurrence. So, next time you come across a deer antler in the woods, remember, it went through a lot just to be there!
You’re driving down the road when you see a deer in headlights… But, what kind of deer is it? After all, there’s more to deer than just antlers.
Otherwise known as Cervidae, the deer family is pretty broad. In fact, there are 43 species of deer.
But with members ranging from whitetail, elk, reindeer, red deer, and every dear deer in-between, how are you supposed to tell the difference?
Let’s explore the fundamental differences between 9 of the types of deer you’re likely to either encounter or hear about.
1. Whitetail Deer
This medium-sized mammal is native to the Americas, weighing in at anywhere from under 100 lbs to over 300 lbs.
Doe (female deer) can weigh anywhere between under 100 lbs to 200 lbs.
White-tailed deer can sometimes be challenging to identify at first glance, as their coats change color seasonally. They can be found with reddish-brown coats under the summer sun, trading these in for more grayish-brown substitutes as winter closes in.
The white-tailed deer, usually referred to simply as the whitetail, earned its name thanks to the prominent white marking under its tail. (If a whitetail deer has piebaldism, it can lead to some unique and stunning markings.)
While the whitetail’s tail is primarily used to warn fellow deer when danger is near, this white marking also helps explorers and hunters distinguish the whitetail from other deer.
This particular deer is also unique in terms of body language. Whitetails are known to showcase various postures, including the “ear drop” to send other deer away, the “hard look” to show anger, the “antler threat” to display dominance, and the fighting stance to prepare for battle, so to speak.
During the breeding season, or “rut,” bucks (males) can often be found making violent antler contact, testing each other’s strength for the right to breed receptive does. This battle normally ends when one deer is too tired to continue but can also end in the death of one or both bucks.
Sometimes when fighting, bucks can get their antlers entangled with each other, unable to break apart. In these instances, bucks can even die if they cannot get separated.
Normally found across the hills of Central California and the mountainous region of Alaska, the Columbian black-tailed deer is a sub-species of the mule deer.
The blacktail is slightly smaller than most mule deer or his white-tailed cousin, though. Like white-tailed deer, blacktail also change their coat colors, from a reddish-brown in summer to a brownish-gray in winter.
Blacktail are normally easy to spot by their ears, which move independently. This particular deer’s broad tail is totally black or dark brown at the top, with a white patch underneath. This would make him easy to confuse with the white-tail, were it not for his distinctive dark brown antlers with symmetrical branching and easily-identifiable stocky bodies with long, slender legs.
Black-tailed deer weigh in at about 130 pounds, but can reach closer to 200. While blacktail males have antlers, their female counterparts do not – and male fawns start growing antlers at about 6-8 months old.
Blacktail can normally be found in forested mountains on the pacific coast, where the climate is mild and cool with plenty of rainfall. Blacktail live off a diet of acorns, fungi, lichen, nuts, berries, and shrubs
This specific kind of white-tailed deer is among the most commonly found across the South-Eastern mountains of Arizona, especially during the rainy summertime.
Coues can be found in woodlands where there is plenty of oak, chaparral, and pine.
Coues deer are known for their distinctive antlers. The coues’ mean beam curves forward, and more mature coues have 3-4 tines on each side.
When it comes to coat, the coues is normally grayish-brown with specks of “salt and pepper,” and white patches underneath. The coues’ most distinguishing trait is his long and broad tail, which is grayish-red-black on top and white underneath.
Coues deer are normally quite small, and fawns are known to stay close to their mothers for longer than other deer.
4. Mule Deer
Mule deer are commonly spotted in deserts across North and South America, flaunting large ears that first granted them their name.
The mule deer’s tail appears to have been dipped in black ink, and his antlers are forked.
You’ll also find a distinctive white patch on either hind side, which easily differentiates the mule deer from any other deer in America. The mule deer sports a grayish-brown coat, making it easier for him to adapt to his unique climate in desert areas.
Mule deer, often referred to as muleys, normally range from about 3 feet tall at the shoulders to a towering 7 feet (including antlers), weighing up to 280 pounds.
In addition to the whitetail, the mule deer is also one of the types of deer sought after by hunters.
5. Red Deer
These large land mammals (Britain’s largest, in fact) can weigh anywhere from 90 kg to 190 kg (around 100 to 225 lbs). They stand up to 1.37 meters (4-1/2 ft) tall at the shoulder, and can normally be found in wooded lowland areas.
But, the part of this deer’s anatomy that sets it apart from other deer so distinctly, is its noticeably large head and wide-spaced brown eyes.
A male red deer is called a stag. His antlers are perhaps his most distinctive feature – highly branched with multiple points on each.
The red deer’s antler branches increase with age at an angle. Another unmistakable trait of the red deer are its hoof prints, otherwise known as “slots.” These are often mistaken for sheep or goat’s marks.
Red deer are mostly found in forest habitats across England and Southern Scotland, and graze on grass and dwarf shrubs. They generally breed from the end of September to November.
6. Chital / Axis Deer
The Chital Deer, otherwise known as the axis deer, boasts unique characteristics that set it apart – one of which is the white spots that never go away. These speckled dots stay in place from youth through to adulthood, normally covering the entire body and spanning down the legs too. These spots make the axis deer one of the most easily recognized types of deer.
The Chital Deer also has a rather long muzzle topped off with a dark black nose. The axis deer normally weighs anywhere from 60 pounds to 170 pounds, depending on the region and habitat.
An interesting feature of male axis deer are their antlers, which normally have six points. However, more dominant bucks are found with more than this, making them significant trophies.
The axis deer were introduced in the United States in the 1930’s. The state of Texas has the highest population of axis deer in the U.S.
The axis deer is normally found living in secondary land areas, around glades where there is plenty to eat. The axis deer’s hoof shape prevents them from walking well on rugged terrain. So, they tend to avoid these types of areas.
The axis deer tend to be more social than other types of deer.
This member of the deer family is found primarily in the Western United States and Southern Canada.
The elk’s history is complex, with most being killed by Western U.S. settlers by the early 1900’s. The sole survivors were found mostly in the region just west of the Rocky Mountains.
Thankfully, reintroduction efforts were successful, and the elk can be found in many areas today – towering tall at 4-5 feet high at the shoulder. Some even reach up to 9 feet or higher, counting antler height. You can spot an Elk from a distance, with a copper brown coat. This can change to light tan during the Fall and Winter months.
Elk are also easily noticeable by their rump patch, and short light-brown tail. Elk can be found feeding on all types of plants, mostly grass. Although, elk also enjoy twigs, forbs, fir, juniper, aspen, and chokeberry. They also love shrubs, particularly during the cold winter months. Elk predators include cougars, wolves, coyotes, and bears, which often kill calves and sick adults.
This Christmas “legend” is actually a real deer. The male reindeer is unique among the rest, easily identifiable mainly by its antlers.
Other distinctive characteristics include his broad hooves, wide muzzle, and extra-thick brown fur.
These majestic creatures are a medium-sized member of the deer family, found across forests, mountains, and arctic tundra in Canada, Alaska, Scandinavia, and Northern China. Reindeer normally travel in massive herds and live in the wild for about a decade.
More domesticated reindeer are herded by Asian Artic and European peoples.
Reindeer are herbivores, and spend most of the day grazing. During the cold winter months, Reindeer can be found grazing on moss and lichens, leaves and herbs.
9. Vampire Deer (Musk Deer)
Otherwise known as musk deer, these “vampires” are actually quite shy and prone to voluntary solitary confinement.
These gentle, nocturnal creatures differ from other cervids, due to their lack of antlers and facial glands. They earned their name through their distinctive sharp vampire-like “fangs.” The over-sized canine teeth are impossible to miss.
While their name and long fangs might scare you off, this unique Asian deer is actually harmless. You’ll normally find him in mountainous regions, like the Himalayas or Siberia.
Take note of his over-sized ears, exceptionally short tail, and lack of antlers. Traits like these make the vampire deer one of the easiest kinds to spot. His coat is grayish-brown, and his hair long and brittle.
Today, we’re going to show you how to tie the uni knot, sometimes referred to as the hangman’s knot. And, it’s not a very difficult knot to tie, but we want to show you how to do that. And, it’s a great knot for just about every fishing scenario. So, it’s a good one to have in your skill set. So, we’re using just a lure today, because it’s a little bit easier to see and hold onto for the video and 12 lb. mono.
So, we’re going to take the line, insert it through the eyelet. And, we’re going to pull about 6 inches or so on the tag end.
You’re going to take your two fingers right here. And, we’re going to just hold them right here above the eyelet.
We’re going to take the tag end and we’re going to make a loop. We’re going to loop it and then we’re going to hold that loop against the line in between those same two fingers. So, this is what it looks like.
We’re going to take the tag end and we’re going to go down behind and through the big loop and then back up and we’re going to keep twisting that around like that five different times. So, we’re going to take the tag end and begin to loop it. One, two, three, four and five. And, when you’re done, the tag end will be sticking up right here.
Now, you can just take that tag end while you’re still holding the line against the eyelet and begin to pull on that tag end. And, you’ll see that knot begin to cinch up in the middle of the line.
Now, you can let go of the tag end, grab the long end. Hold onto the lure and just pull. And, you’ll see that knot cinch down on the eyelet of the lure, or the hook in your case. We’re going to take our snips and snip there.
Now, you’ve got a really strong, very versatile uni knot. And, this knot is great, as I said, for many fishing scenarios. You can use it for line to leader combinations as well. There’s many different uses for that.