This is the time of year when the bucks grow new antlers. They shed the old antlers in March or April.
The increasing amount of daylight hours is picked up by the eyes of the adult buck deer and transmitted to the pituitary gland at base of the skull. The pituitary gland stimulates the release of testosterone. This hormone is the main factor in controlling antler growth.The pedicel, the base from which the antler starts to grow, has been covered with a layer of skin since the previous antlers were shed. As the testosterone acts upon the deer’s body, this skin starts to swell, due to calcium deposits forming the antler. The velvet, as this network of veins is called, is nothing more than a kind of modified skin. It nourishes the antler from the outside, instead of from the center such as cattle have.
The new antlers are among the fastest-growing forms of animal tissue known. Some mature bucks are capable of growing one inch of antler per day. The antlers at this time are soft and easily damaged. If they bump hard objects they will bleed readily because all the veins are on the surface. Injury to antlers during this growth period may cause odd points or double main beams. They are hot to the touch and have short bristly hair.
Asians have used antler velvet concentrate for centuries to improve everything from blood pressure to their sex life. Several companies sell spray bottles for oral use on the internet.
“You are what you eat” is very true for a buck’s antlers. A buck that gets a nourishing diet and the needed amount of calcium and phosphorus will grow an impressive set of antlers. A young buck requires about twice the amount of protein and nutrients that an adult, three-year-old buck needs. The young buck’s needs are for body growth, and then antler development. I keep four mineral licks out this time of year and two feeders going to help the antler growth. High protein deer pellets are expensive so just use them during March thru July. This will be very important this year because of the drought in South Brown County.
Trail cameras show me the bucks licking the minerals and the fast growth of the new antlers (pictured to the left). Trail cameras also show the shed antler socket on March 25 and the velvet antlers out past the ears on May 27 (pictured above). This is the wonder of antler growth even during an extreme drought. Due to cost control, I buy 50 pound bags of range mineral at the local farm supply store. This is for cattle but works fine for deer. Dig a hole one foot deep and pour in about a gallon of dry minerals. Deer will paw and dig until they get the hole completely dug out.
This will be the third year for antler restrictions in Brown County and I can see a difference already. The 13 inch inside requirement lets a lot of 2 year old bucks walk until next year. After a buck makes the 3rd year, his body is mature and his diet goes to his antlers. I’ve hunted deer for 50 years but still get excited when I see a trophy set of antlers.