The process of antler formation is said to be the most rapid growth known in the animal kingdom, but how does a white-tailed buck get such a huge quantity of minerals from his diet and into his antlers so rapidly? Fact is, they don’t; white-tailed bucks get some of the minerals needed for antler growth from their diet and the remainder of the minerals needed from the internal reserves found within their body.
Grow, Shed Antlers, Repeat
Since a whitetail buck can not get all the raw material it needs for this rapid growth of antlers from the food it eats that season, the deer must borrow it from within its body. In a process similar to that of osteoporosis in humans, minerals are taken from a buck’s ribs, sternum, and skull, and redeposited in growing antlers.
It’s an amazing process and research has found that bone density may decrease by as much as 30 percent in whitetail bucks following the antler growing season! It also helps explain why mature bucks can grow larger antlers than their younger counterparts. Their skeletal frame continues to grow until at least 3 years of age.
As a result, not only are older bucks able to store more of the minerals need for antler growth but they also do not have a requirement to use them for skeletal growth. Many bucks will exhibit a significant increase in antler size at 4 years of age.
That is also why the big-antlered bucks always seem to be the heaviest bucks, as well — because they are! Good body condition within each deer found on your property is the key to maintaining a quality deer population in any area. That’s why I continually stress sound habitat management be implemented on your property so that the land can be used to provide optimal deer nutrition year-round.
When do Bucks Shed?
By about the first of September antler growth is generally complete in whitetail bucks across their range. Almost as if someone flipped a switch, bucks undergo a rapid transformation. When it happens, bucks shed the soft velvet from the exterior of their antlers and start to beef-up for the breeding season.
This is marked by a sharp rise in testosterone level that triggers a shutdown of the blood supply to the velvet, which results in velvet dying and being totally removed with amazing speed. The velvet will simply fall off, though many bucks because of increased testosterone levels will begin to rub on shrubs and small trees. Lose velvet hanging from shedding antlers can also be annoying, as witnessed in the video below:
Lastly, when I say velvet is lost fast, I mean fast. Velvet can be completely shed from a whitetail buck’s antlers within a day or two. In fact, I’ve seen an older age class buck with no sign of shedding velvet that was sporting completely clean antlers within 22 hours! Antlers are cool, but white-tailed deer are amazing in their own right.