Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on August 16, 2011


August 2011


Editor’s note: One week each month we will run the, Ask The Deer Tracker post. Anyone wishing to
send a question for future posts can e-mail it to,

       Q. – How long does the process take for a buck to completely peel the velvet from his antlers?                                                              B. L. – Raymond, NH


A. – The process actually begins internally days
prior to the buck physically removing the hardened antlers wrap. As day length
begins to shorten in late summer the diminishing light passes through the
animal’s eye, strikes the pituitary gland, which in turn transmits an electric
impulse to the pineal gland located in the center of the brain. Much like the
process that starts the flow of sap in the spring, the impulse begins the
chemical surge of testosterone within the bucks endocrine system.

A number of transformations begin happening simultaneously
during this time. The buck’s testicles begin to descend, blood flow to the
antler shuts off causing the velvet to die and with the absence of blood
circulating through the many veins just beneath the velvet, the appendages
actually experience some shrinkage. Once blood flow ceases to the antlers the
buck is essentially left with dead bone attached to his skull at the pedicle.
It could be presumed that with the degradation of the velvet, residue blood and
water begin to seep through cracks and crevices causing irritation to the
animal that then starts to rid himself of this source of annoyance. I do know
that whitetails do not like the smell of blood, even their own.

  Once the peeling
process starts a buck will expend a tremendous amount of energy in his attempt
to defoliate his crown. In fact, most if not all of his attention will be
focused on this exhausting activity. Each buck’s personality is different and
the configurations of their respective antlers differ as well, hence the time
needed to fully peel will vary from one animal to the next. Some may completely
peel in two hours while others may require a twenty four hour time frame before
the bone is totally clean.

Q. – What would you consider to my best choice for a
camouflage pattern?

                                                                  C. J. – Marquette, MI


A. – Although you did not stipulate what part of the
fall you will be hunting whitetails or if it is during archery or firearm
season, I will define what I use and the reason for my choice. The first and
most important aspect of my clothing pattern is based on color. Whitetails see
color in a much different wavelength than humans; while we can visualize the
full spectrum of colors they find it difficult to detect reds and greens.

My favorite camo pattern and the one I use over seventy five
percent of the time is a green and black buffalo check. The checked pattern
helps to break up my silhouette and the coloration is not readily detectable to
the whitetails inquisitive eyes. Reds in the same pattern would be just as

Q. – What causes some bucks to grow non-typical
antlers while most usually sport typical racks?

                                                                                             H. B. – Halifax, Nova Scotia


A. – It must be understood that there is a difference
between non-typical and malformed antlers. Malformed appendages are usually the
result of either the buck injuring his antlers while they are in the soft
growing process or are due to a pre-existing injury to the animal’s body. When
a buck suffers an injury, regardless how severe the body overcompensates for
this trauma and the evidence of this becomes visible in one side of his rack being
deformed. Because of the way the brain functions, if the buck is injured on the
right side than his left antler will exhibit the deformity and vice-versa
should the wound be to his left side. The malformed antler will also grow
smaller than the opposite mate. As long as the injury is not serious or
debilitating, he may only grow this deformed antler for one year, however, in
the case of permanent injury such as the loss of part of a leg, each successive
set of antlers will display deformity.

Non-typical antlers are a characteristic that occurs in a
bucks antlers throughout his life. It is a hereditary gene that is passed on to
successive generations. It is unclear as to what the root cause for this
genetic predisposition is, but once established within a given geographic
region there will be increased opportunities for bucks carrying such antlers.
This trait does not usually manifest itself until the buck reaches his third
birthday and will maximize itself beginning with his seventh set of antlers if
he reaches that age. Rare as it is, should a buck exhibit non-typical antlers
with his first set he has the potential for becoming a real mega-buck by

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