There comes a time in the off-season when whitetail deer hunters all over the country become obsessed with collecting deer antlers. This obsession corresponds with the time of the year when deer shed their antlers. If you are new to deer hunting and are eager to collect your first deer antlers, you are probably wondering when do deer shed their antlers.
This is the million-dollar question that every hunter must find an answer to when the hunting season is over. As a whitetail deer hunter, I have collected my fair share of deer antlers. And I have come up with several useful tips on how to find deer antlers. These are the tips I will be sharing with you in this article as well as exploring why deer shed antlers, how and when they shed antlers.
How And Why Deer Shed Antlers?
To answer the question when do deer lose their antlers, we must first answer the question how do deer shed antlers. To answer this question, it is important first to consider what deer antlers are used for. Like in many other animals, deer use their antlers as weapons during the mating season. This means that mature male bucks fight each other for the chance to mate with females using their antlers. In this regard, the levels of testosterone in a deer’s body will have a direct impact on the growth of antlers.
During the fall, the level of testosterone increases. The increase in testosterone corresponds with the mating season. As the mating season ends in later winter, the testosterone levels in mature deer decrease. This decrease results in the production of hormones that reabsorbs calcium from the bony area at the base of the antlers known as the pedicle.
The latter is the part of the deer’s head that connects the head and the antlers. The re-absorption of calcium from the pedicle results in the weakening of this connector part. The weakened pedicle causes the antlers to fall off. It is worth noting that the shedding of antlers does in no way harm or cause pain to a deer. Scientifically speaking, specialized cells known as osteoclast are responsible for the re-absorption of calcium from the bony part known as the pedicle.
After the antlers fall off, bleeding occurs on the exposed bone. However, the bleeding stops and a scab forms over it. In the summer, the antlers begin to grow and develop a velvet color. This velvet color is as a result of the flow of blood carrying vitamins and minerals to the antlers. The growth of the antlers can take anywhere between four and five months. Once the antlers are fully grown, a hardened bony ring form at the base is causing an end to blood flow to the antlers. This results in the velvet color disappearing.
So Why Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
Well this is not an easy question to answer. However, there are several reasons that have been advanced as to why deer shed their antlers. The main reason the physical toll put on a deer’s body during the mating season. During the mating season, male bucks engage in fighting and chasing of female bucks. All these activities usually take a physical toll on their bodies. When the mating season ends, the deer’s testosterone levels decrease because of the physical toll.
A significant body of research conducted on why deer shed antlers reveal that older deer shed antlers faster than younger deer. In fact, a whopping 62% of deer aged 3½ and older shed their antlers faster than younger deer.
When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
Now that you know the how and the why it is time to answer the question when do deer shed antlers. The answer the question depends on a number of factors, which I have highlighted below.
As stated above, older deer shed antlers earlier than younger deer. In this regard, deer aged 3½ shed their antlers in mid-December. Therefore, one of the best times to go antler hunting is in mid-December.
The shedding of antlers is highly dependent on where deer live. Deer that inhabit the colder regions of the country, i.e., the Northern part are usually the first to shed off antlers. In these parts, antler shedding can begin as early as mid to late December.
On the other hand, as you make you way down to the south where the temperatures are moderate, antler shedding takes some time to begin. Generally, in areas with moderate temperatures, deer start losing their antlers in mid-January to February.
Deer that inhabit the hot Southern States have to wait until the beginning of March to lose their antlers. In these areas, the antler shedding season can run from early March to mid-April.
However, in areas with large deer populations, the deer tend to shed their antlers earlier and in most cases in mid-December. The reason for this is that areas with large population of deer are characterized by poor nutrition, which affects when deer shed antlers.
Speaking of nutrition, deer that roam the Midwestern farm counties, where nutrition is good to tend to shed antlers later on in mid-January. Contrastingly, deer in areas with poor nutrition tend to shed their antlers earlier in mid-December. The good nutrition helps maintain a deer’s testosterone levels for longer.
The lack of a precise answer to the question why do deer shed their antlers can be blamed on their physical conditions. This means that deer in poor health conditions or injured deer lose their antlers faster than healthy deer.
The bottom line is that there is no universal answer to when do bucks lose their antlers. However, it is generally accepted that the shedding of antlers occurs between the months of December and April. The exact time will depend on a number of factors including the ones I have highlighted above.
Tips On Finding Shed Deer Antlers
It is the desire of every hunter to find as many deer antlers as is humanly possible. However, not every hunter ends up getting their prize. If you want to be successful in your antler hunting, below are some useful tips.
Know Where To Look
The number one reason why you are not successful in your antler hunting endeavors is you are looking in the wrong places. Knowing where to look is important if you want to find deer antlers. There are several spots you should prioritize when searching deer antlers.
Number one is deer bedding areas. During winter deer spend most of their times sleeping in an effort to conserve energy. Therefore, to increase your chances of finding antlers search deer bedding areas. In most cases, deer will choose coniferous forests as their preferred bedding areas.
Another spot that you are likely to find deer antlers is in trails that have obstacles, such as fences. Antlers fall off due to sudden movements such as when a deer jumps. Therefore, search trails that have obstacles.
Timing Is Everything
Needless to say, you will not be the only hunter searching for antlers. Additionally, depending on where you are searching you will likely be competing with squirrels. Squirrels love deer antlers for their calcium. Therefore, if you live in an area where squirrels roam, go out to search for antlers regularly. However, if you are in an area where squirrels do not frequent wait until March when most deer have shed their antlers.
Use A Dog
Dogs are 100 times better at locating antlers than we are. The reason is that dogs have a better sense of smell and sight than we do. Thus, dogs are able to smell antlers and see them quicker than we can. Therefore, to increase your chances of finding antlers, use an antler hunting dog.
Use Your Optics
Just because you are antler hunting does not mean you leave your hunting gear at home. There are several tools that will be useful on your antler hunting trip. Therefore, be sure to carry a good pair of binoculars or an optic to scope an area. Using a pair of binoculars or optics will help you minimize the amount of time spent walking.
In summary, the answer to the question when do whitetail deer shed their antlers is between, December and April. Therefore, if you want to collect your first antlers, I suggest going antler hunting either in mid-December or mid-April. But most importantly do not forget to follow all the tips I have highlighted above. The last thing you want is to waste time searching for antlers in areas where there are none or before deer start shedding. In this regard, I hope that you have read the article to the end.