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3 Reasons Whitetail Bucks Grow Giant Non-Typical Racks

west va 2019 donnyOne day last fall in Perry County, Ohio, Ethan Featheroff arrowed a 20-point giant that scored 220 7/8”.

Over in Logan County, West Virginia, Donny Baisden scouted, hunted and shot the awesome unicorn buck (pictured) that taped out at 182 5/8.

The 10-year trend of hunters shooting monster non-typical whitetails continues, and many more giants will fall in 2019.

There are 3 reasons bucks grow such huge, gaudy racks.

Injury: Biologists have long known that trauma to a buck’s skull plate or velvet antlers or a major bodily injury (i.e., a broken leg) can cause a rack to grow crazily during the current antler cycle or even for several years thereafter. Injury probably accounts for the most freakish racks, like a “cactus buck.” If deer tries to jump a wire fence but is castrated (ouch!) he might just grow a clump of semi-soft, stalk-line tines that are never shed. A buck struck by a car on the right side of his body might grow a big blob for a left main beam.

Genetics & Age: “While injuries do occur, in my opinion genetics is the primary cause for all the non-typical antler growth we’re seeing,” says noted whitetail biologist Mickey Hellickson. He says that many if not most whitetail bucks have the genes to grow drop tines, stickers and the like on an otherwise “clean” 10-point rack, but most of the deer are shot or killed by cars at a relatively young age, before they are able to express those non-typical characteristics. Hellickson says that non-typical racks generally don’t begin to show until a buck is at least 5 years old.

Prime Protein: “It’s rare for a 6- or 7-year-old buck to be a clean typical these days, especially on private land where there is much nutritious food,” adds Missouri’s Dr. Grant Woods. He is referring not only to farms with ample crops like soybeans, but also to lands where people plant food plots, and sometimes supplement with protein feedings.  The more protein-packed food a buck eats the more nutrients shoot to his growing antlers. The more and faster those antlers grow, the more the rack is apt to express non-typical traits.

Good luck, hope you see one of these giants this season!

How Do Deer Handle Summer Heat?

summer deer webIt’s about to get really hot and humid–how will does with fawns, and bucks growing racks handle the heat?

Temperatures above normal during summer causes some stress in deer. The amount of stress is dependent on the quality of the habitat. For example, deer consume more water than any other mineral (yes, water is a mineral, a naturally occurring substance) and the amount of water deer need increases during periods of above normal temperatures. If water is limited by either quantity or quality, many of a deer’s bodily functions are limited, such as a buck transferring calcium to growing antlers, or a doe producing milk for fawns.

Deer can usually travel to find water. But if they are forced out of their home range to find water, which is rare, it requires huge amounts of energy that can’t be used for other bodily processes such as antler and milk production.

But in the end, unless there is a prolonged drought in your area, summer stress rarely has a lasting impact on deer herds. As the seasons and weather change, deer can usually deal with it just fine.


11 Cool Facts: How Whitetail Bucks Grow Antlers

velvet buck compress1) Back around April, as the days got longer and the light increased, new antlers began to grow from buds that formed on pedicels on bucks’ heads. Within a month, main beams and brow tines began to sprout and split off.

2) Now, throughout early summer, the fledgling racks grow fast and furious. Antler tissue is the fastest-growing tissue in the animal world. Beams and tines may grow a quarter-inch or more per day, the process driven by a buck’s hormones and the photoperiod of the days.

3) According to biologists, a buck’s rack will show most of its points by mid-June, though tine length is typically less than half developed at this time. Most of the beam length will grow by late June.

4) Those are general rules, but the growth of individual racks can vary. Some bucks will show a lot of antler growth early, while others seem to add a bunch to their rack later in July.

Here are some interesting facts about summer antler growth:

5) Antlers are made of bone, consisting mostly of calcium (22% in fully developed bone), phosphorus (11%), magnesium and other minerals. Although some of the minerals needed for antler growth are taken from food, scientists note that lot of them are sucked from the buck’s skeleton, which may cause him to develop osteoporosis during the summer. Setting mineral licks for the deer may help.

6) Throughout June and July, velvet antlers have a complex system of blood vessels that causes them to be hot to the touch. There is so much blood carrying protein and minerals to a buck’s antlers that even small racks easily detected with thermal imaging devices.

7) Tiny hairs on the velvet stick out and make growing antlers appear thicker than they really are. The hairs act as a radar system so the buck won’t bump into trees, fence posts, etc. and damage his soft antlers.

8) Sebum, a semi-liquid secretion, on the hairs gives the velvet a shiny look. Sebum also acts as an insect repellent to keep biting flies off a buck’s rack and face.

9) In early August antlers begin to morph from soft and pliable to hardened bone. A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter. Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.

10) By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks typically shed the velvet. The cue for antler hardening and velvet shedding is the change in photoperiod caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.

11) Velvet shedding typically takes only a couple of hours, though it is not uncommon to see a deer walking around for day or two with bloody velvet tatters. One last thing you might not know: Bucks have been known to turn their heads and peel or even eat the dry velvet off their new racks!

After that, the tree rubbing and antler-polishing begin. With their new crowns gleaming, mature bucks are ready and willing to breed the does for the next three months, until their testosterone begins to fade and the fascinating antler cycle begins all over again.

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