As November approaches, many of us start thinking about our resident whitetail deer population; whether we are looking forward to testing our luck during hunting season, or we just hope to avoid them as they run across our roadways.
No matter what our reason is for thinking about the famous Iowa whitetails, the one thing everyone can appreciate is the formation of the unique antlers on the big bucks.
All though we all look forward to seeing one of those magnificent set of antlers in the fall, many people don’t know the process these deer undergo to grow their antler display.
Antlers Vs. Horns
The first thing to recognize when we think of their antlers is the reason we call them antlers and not horns. The difference between the two, is that animals with antlers lose them every year while animals with horns maintain their horn for their entire lifespan.
Antler Growth Process
For whitetail deer, the antler growing process begins in late March or early April. Typically by the end of April you can see the brow tine on an established buck. By the end of May, a second point may be visible on the antlers. On established bucks all antler points should be visible by the end of June.
At the end of July or early August, the antlers are fully grown and ready to begin the hardening process. To start the hardening process, blood stops flowing to the antlers causing the velvet covering of the antlers to begin shrinking. As the velvet shrinks the bucks will begin rubbing against trees and shrubs to scrape the velvet off their antlers. Bucks can be seen rubbing trees from the end of August through September. Young bucks may not lose their velvet entirely until October.
Once the velvet is gone from the antlers, bucks are ready to rut. The rutting, or mating, season runs from October through January. The rut causes deer to be more active as the males actively look for does to mate. Unfortunately when combined with earlier nightfall and the crops being removed from the fields, the deer are much more likely to be foraging along and crossing roadways during the rutting season.
After the rut, the bucks will shed their antlers. Many people collect shed antlers. Antlers are used in craft projects like homemade pens and key chains and for furniture including tables and lamps. The best time to look for shed antlers is from mid-January through mid-March.
Antlers are often found in places where deer spend a lot of time, such as bedding areas. Also, anywhere that causes deer to jump such as fences or creek crossings can be hot spots for shed antlers, since the impact of landing the jump is sometimes enough to cast off an antler.
Of course fawns are a byproduct of the fall rut. Look for new fawns to start appearing in late May. Fawning season runs through June although sometimes there are a few late fawns born in July.