Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on January 19, 2021




January Column


Editor’s note:  Anyone wishing to send a question for future “Ask The Deer Tracker” posts can e-mail it to,




Q. – How long does it take a buck to shed his velvet, and why are his antlers red following this process?

   T. M. – Casco, ME


A.    – The actual time it takes an individual buck to peel the velvet that has encased his antlers varies from animal to animal. Antler size, configuration, and the energy the buck puts forth during the process will dictate the length of time it takes. Some bucks will complete the peeling procedure as quickly as two hours, while others will take up to three days before their rack is completely clean.



A tremendous amount of energy is expended by a buck while ridding the velvet from his antlers; it is physically exhausting work. I believe the two primary sources that cause a buck to feverishly labor at removing velvet are blood and annoyance. Whitetails dislike the smell of blood; it drives them wild, especially when it is dripping onto their muzzle. As the velvet is peeled from the top down, much like a banana, it hangs in strands from the main beams. These strands of velvet now hanging in, and on either side of a buck’s face are irritating to him, and partially limit his peripheral view.


Velvet peeling is a bloody process and is the chief reason why antlers appear red directly following its completion. Blood flow to the antler gradually becomes restricted and eventually shuts off prior to velvet peel. Separation of the skin (velvet) begins to take place within 48 hours following the cut-off of blood flow. The blood that has been circulating through the many capillaries during the growing season is now trapped. It is this residue blood that we see staining the buck’s antlers. If it were not for the blood, the initial color of a freshly peeled rack would be bone white.


Q. – Tracking whitetails is a physically demanding method of hunting. During the course of any given day you can find yourself hiking many miles in some rather challenging environments. I know from reading your work that you are primarily a deer tracker and go at it for weeks on end during the season. My question is, how do you physically prepare for such a task?

        B. L. – Grand Rapids, MI


A.    – You are absolutely correct when you assert that tracking a whitetail is physically demanding. The daily grind on your body is taxing. Although to the uninformed it would seem like just a walk in the woods, tracking requires stealth. Your legs are not merely just to transport you through the forest; they become shock absorbers as well. Your steps are placed, not taken. There are many obstacles that have to be either gone under, over, or around. Some days you find yourself climbing, others descending, and then there are those locations where for every step you take forward, you need to take two steps backward just to proceed.



Once upon a time I ran 4-to-5 miles every other day. But, due to pulls, strains, and impact on my joints I have foregone running. I now go to a gym where I use what I call the ‘fat-boy’ machine. It is an elliptical that offers a variety of workout programs. I set the machine on one of several elevated positions to further enhance my workout. The real benefit to this machine is that I can workout at any time of the day, regardless of the outside weather or temperature and watch sporting news or a ball game at the same time. Because I am also a nature photographer, the demands of my work keep me quite active. I routinely traverse a variety of terrains, assuming numerous and sometimes, uncomfortable positions, and do so under all conditions. All of this keeps me in shape.


Q. – At a time when it seems that we have more and more equipment and gadgetry being pitched to us, better clothes, technologically superior products, refined calls, and sure to attract scents, do you have a favorite piece of equipment? Is there something that you take into the deer woods that you wouldn’t leave your car without?

   A. S. – Franconia, NH




A.    – That’s simple. My most important piece of equipment on any given hunting day is my rifle. Without it I wouldn’t stand much of a chance of killing a deer. That is of course unless the buck suddenly dies of a heart attack in front of me. In addition to my rifle I need bullets. After all, a gun is of little use without projectiles to fire out of it. And, of course my compass, so that I know which way to drag the buck after a successful day on the track!


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