Bucks in Velvet


It’s hard to believe that another hunting season begins the end of next month.  Summer is a good time to get out and observe wildlife especially the little ones.  It’s also a good time to see what kind of bucks might be running around come fall.
I like to wait until the evenings after the sun goes down and drive the many back roads as the fields are always full of deer then.  I saw a decent buck a couple weeks ago that was already out to his ears.
The bigger bucks tend to be more relaxed in July and August and show themselves a little more.  And, you don’t have to worry if you spook them as there’s plenty of time for them to settle down before hunting season.   Typically most deer will just run out of sight as the woods are thick with vegetation now.  As fall approaches I become more cautious with my scouting.
Summer is also a good time to put trail cameras out.  By moving them around on well used deer paths and natural funnels, you can get a good idea how the deer are traveling.  This helps to narrow down your stand site selections when October rolls around.  And as always you just never know what you’re going to get a picture of next.  No matter what time of the year it is I get excited every time when the camera is downloaded and the pictures pop up.
Did you all know that deer antlers are among the fastest growing tissues known to man?  Bucks begin growing their antlers in the early spring.  Most of the growth occurs from late May until the end of August.  During peak development antlers can grow up to ½ inch per day.  How big of a rack a buck can produce varies greatly depending upon the age, genes and nutrition of each deer.
The growing antler, or bone, is covered with a living tissue known as “velvet”.  Velvet is nothing more than a hairy skin that dries up and begins to peel off as the antler hardens.  Bucks begin to rub trees in September to help speed up the loss of velvet and to polish their new racks.  It also helps to strengthen their neck muscles for the upcoming antler battles that will ensue during the breeding season.
Whitetail deer have antlers and not horns.  The difference is that horns are living bone that is covered with hard layers of skin.  They are typically unbranched and are permanently attached to the skull.  Horns keep growing year after year and are never shed.  Wild sheep as well as bison, cows, and goats have horns.
Antlers on the other hand tend to be branched and are shed every year during late winter only to start the growing process all over again.  Each set is unique and can grow in a typical or non-typical fashion.  The head gear on that monster buck is nothing more than dead polished bone.  Deer, moose, and elk are examples of animals having antlers.
Like stated earlier age, genetics, and nutrition are the main factors in determining how the antlers develop.  Bucks are said to produce their best racks around the age of 5 years old.  After 8 years old a buck’s rack can start to go downhill.  Very few bucks live this long in the wild.  In fact here in West Virginia, only a select few make it past 3 ½ years old.  Genetics is passed on from generation to generation and is important, but nutrition is one of the main components to good antler growth.
A buck can have good genetics but with poor nutrition it may not grow to its potential.  For example, without adequate nutrition a buck with the genetic background to become the world record whitetail buck might be less than average.  This is because the majority of the nutrition is going to fuel the body and not the head gear.   Bucks with an abundance of nutrients and minerals will grow the best racks.
This is why in areas with high deer populations you don’t find many trophy bucks.  There’s not enough food to go round and the result is not only smaller bucks, but smaller deer in general.  That’s why it’s important to harvest adequate number of does each year in these areas to ensure not only bigger bucks, but healthier herds.  Harvesting does is one of the best ways to reduce deer populations.
Even though the summer heat has set in another hunting season is just around the corner.  Whitetail deer are fascinating animals and I enjoy watching them every time I see one.  Archery season opens on September 28, 2013 and there will be thousands of West Virginia bow hunters out there pursuing them once again.  I don’t know about you, but I’m ready and counting down the days.