A lot of folks still do not know that deer shed their antlers annually. I have found shed antlers in mid-December but mostly in January and February. By April, new growth is evident. Amazingly, whitetail deer antlers grow rapidly, often, a half-inch a day. This is one of the fastest-growing tissues known to man.
In March, the antler growth process begins. It won’t be noticeable until April but this is when the velvet forms.
The shortest day of the year is December 21. This triggers, in the Midwest, the beginning of a lowering of testosterone. Conversely, the lengthening of daylight hours begins the growing process anew.
In March and most of April, depending on location, antler growth can get off to a slow start based on the availability of nutritious foods. A friend of mine raises deer on his place in Central Indiana. He makes sure his whitetails have the proper food and minerals. They also have good genetics gained through selective breeding.
About the time your tulips bloom, antler growth kicks into high gear. Brow tines and main beams (grown to the ears) are visible with some bucks sporting G-2s. By mid-June, antlers will begin showing character. All the tines should be present and the main beams two-thirds of their total growth. During July a lot of a buck’s antlers form. By the end of the month, with the fuzz of the blood-filled tissue, they can look massive.
By mid to late August blood quits flowing through the tissues, growth stops and the antlers harden. A deer is in velvet while this headgear is growing. The antlers are encased in the velvet. The first two to three weeks in September bucks will vigorously rub their antlers on trees and brush to rid themselves of the velvet. This is completed within two days.
At this date, my friend’s two-year-old buck looks like it could measure 170-plus. His one-year-old’s rack looks to be on the way to score in the 150s. They are truly amazing.
Those fortunate to have a place to hunt in a Deer Reduction Zone, beginning September 15, might take a monster buck in velvet.
Many factors determine the size of the antlers and bodyweight of the deer. In Indiana, I have encountered hunters from Pennsylvania and South Carolina. They have more deer but ours are larger both in antlers and body weight.
Brian Barton, a fishing guide from Muscle Shoals, Alabama (give him a look on FB) has hunted Indiana four times. “I’d be happy with one of your 130-class eight-pointers,” he said. This guy kills a lot of deer in his home state.
Generally, the further away from the equator, the larger the deer. A few counties in Texas have deer with huge racks and small bodies. Bucks in Manitoba often have body weights of 300-lbs. and book racks to match. However, deer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where there is poor soil quality and mainly cedars to browse on, are small. In fact, bucks are hard-pressed to replace the body weight they lost during the rut and often succumb to the harsh winters.
Every Midwestern state has a few hot counties where numerous big bucks are taken. Jefferson County, Indiana is one of those. Bordering to the west, Clark County is one of the worst.
When it comes to whitetails and morels-there is a lot that we don’t know.