Follow by Email

Friday, December 23, 2011

Michigan Hunter Kills Full Drop Rack Buck

A Michigan hunter has taken what is probably one of the most unique racks of all time.

Scott Maddox, 42, of Wellston, Mich., shot this whitetail that possibly could have scored at least 120 inches.

So why didn’t it? It’s all in the rack. Rather than pointing upward, the buck’s antlers wrapped around its head.

“I’ve been hunting since I was 12 years old, this buck is unbelievable,” Maddox told Woods-N-Water News. “… I talked with a retired DNR Officer and he told me he has never seen anything like it before in all his years.”

Maddox first spotted the buck last fall, at first believing it to be just a doe with something hanging off the side of its head. Instead, he watched as the deer developed into an eight-point buck.

After setting up a stand near the trail camera on public land that had first spotted the buck.

It didn’t take long for the bizarre trophy to show up. On the opening day of bow season, Maddox waited in his stand until the buck predictably showed up in late afternoon. At about 15 yards, the buck was an easy target for Maddox, who fired his crossbow with solid placement on the animal, which ran for about 35 yards before collapsing.

Maddox isn’t sure what could have caused the abnormal antlers — which can be caused by injuries, genetics or age — and although the buck appeared to be in good health, he doesn’t think the deer could have made it past winter — the bizarre pattern almost certainly made eating a challenge.

“It made me feel good to take him out of the herd. It’s not the kind of rack you think of when you set out to go hunting,” Maddox said.

by Dylan Polk

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kansas rancher proud of his daughters!

Although days removed from the crisp Dec. 2 evening, my husband's good friend, Steve Gerlach, tells me the story with the same initial amazement.

This, after all, is the kind of hunting experience that brings tears to any father's eyes.
The Lindsborg-area rancher has four children — specifically four daughters: Makayla, 12; Lindsey, 11; Cassidy, 8 and Laney, 4. All have an interest in the outdoors.

But this story is about Lindsey and her first deer on her first hunt on the first day dad could take one of his daughters to the blind.

His three older girls wanted to go deer hunting this season. He considered drawing straws to see who would go first.

It came down to the two oldest. Older sister Makayla went rifle hunting for the first time last year and shot a doe. She told Lindsey she could go first this time.

Thus, just a few days into the Kansas rifle season, Steve trekked to his McPherson County deer spot with Lindsey beside him. They got into the blind about 2 p.m. and began to watch as a few does and small bucks wandered by.

With it being just the first day, he told her they would wait for a while and see if anything bigger would come into the area.

Then, for a while, nothing came into view. Lindsey wondered aloud that maybe she should have shot one of the smaller deer. However, as the father and daughter watched a raccoon and a possum walk out of the trees, she told her dad, "Even if we don't get a deer today, it's been the greatest day of my life," It was a sentimental moment, Steve said.
Lindsey wasn't going to be skunked on this afternoon. About an hour before dusk, a 130-inch 8-point walked into range. He told her to take a breath and concentrate before pulling the trigger.

"Dad," Lindsey said. "There's a bigger one coming."
Steve, however, couldn't see it from where he was sitting in the blind.
"I asked her how big it was and she said 'Dad, it's as big as your mule deer.'"
"I thought to myself, whatever," he said, noting his mule deer scored 185. "That would be huge. That would be a world-class deer."

Turns out, Lindsey wasn't too far off. Steve, however, kept as quiet as he could until he could finally see what she was talking about. He didn't want Lindsey to get all excited about what would most likely be the buck of her lifetime. Moreover, he said, Lindsey probably didn't comprehend just how big of a deer she was about to shoot — a trophy 8-point buck that unofficially scored 180.

His daughter stayed calmer and more collected than dad.
"I was so excited that I had a hard time finding the zipper," Steve laughed, adding that Lindsey had to point it out to him.

After all, this buck is much bigger than Steve's biggest whitetail, which scored 174. The bow hunter's deer this year was a 154-inch 8 pointer.

Finding big bucks runs in the family. A few years ago, her grandfather took a non-typical buck that scored 220.

"It's one of those deals you really wish you had a video camera," Steve said. "It was a cool father/daughter experience I'll never forget.

Steve's work wasn't done, however. After successfully guiding Lindsey to a deer, two other girls in the family were jumping at the bit to get into the blind. He recently helped Makayla get her first buck, a nine-pointer that scores 140.

And, of course, he's equally as proud.
"It is a great, great experience introducing youth to the outdoors," he said.

Information from: The Hutchinson News

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Shot Placement & Selection For Deer Hunters

Knowing well ahead of time what represents a good first shot will make you a more aggressive and successful deer hunter. Knowing when not to shoot will make you a more ethical deer hunter. Many of us focus on the horns and not the shot placement for a humane harvest.

The maturity of a deer hunter can better be judged by the kinds of shots he passes up than the size of the bucks he has taken. These tips are designed to help you evaluate every situation and knowing a good shot from a marginal one. Making the right moves and taking the best shot at the right times requires pre-planned actions. 

HEAD-ON SHOT (for guns only)
This shot presents gun hunters with three vital targets. A shot in the chest will hit the heart or lungs. A bullet in the neck will usually break the neck or cause enough shock to drop the animal instantly. It could also destroy the esophagus and/or carotid artery or jugular vein. 

The head-on shot is not good for bowhunters. Unless the arrow hits the chest dead-center, which presents a very small target, it can easily deflect off the bone. 

BROADSIDE SHOT (bow and gun)
Gun hunters can drop deer instantly with a broadside shot by putting a bullet through the shoulder blade. A well- constructed bullet will pass through the blade and the spine.

The broadside shot is also good for bowhunters, but it doesn't leave much room for error as the quartering-away shot does. Arrows that pass through the vital organs produce quick, clean kills. Aim for the heart, knowing that a high shot will still hit the lungs. Archers must avoid the shoulder blade. 

For archers, the quartering-away shot offers the best chances for success. Even if the arrow hits a bit too far back, it can angle forward into the chest cavity for a quick kill. When taking this shot, the point of aim should be through the deer to the opposite shoulder. 

This is also a great shot for gun-hunters. As with the bow, the gun-hunter's point of aim should be through the deer to the opposite shoulder. 

As with the head-on shot, the quartering-toward shot is good for gun hunters. A shot high in the chest will usually break the base of the neck and travel through the lungs. A lower shot will hit the heart. 

While this shot should be avoided by bowhunters, a properly placed arrow can hit the lungs or heart, making for a clean kill. However the target again is very small. If possible, avoid this shot and wait for a better opportunity.


Making quick, certain kills should be the main goal of every gun and bowhunter. Keeping the following facts in mind before taking a shot will help you make wise decisions.
  • When shooting at deer with bow and arrow, aim for the heart regions. If the deer "jumps the string" by dropping sharply before bounding away, the arrow will still the lungs.
  • The average whitetail deer, weighing about 150 pounds, carries about eight pounds of blood in its circulatory system. Massive hemorrhage is necessary to bring the deer down quickly.
  • A deer must lose at least 35 percent of its blood, or 2.75 pints in a 150 pound deer before falling. The better the hit, the quicker the loss.
  • Deer blood carries high levels of vitamin K1 and K2 in early autumn. Vitamin K is an anti-hemorrhage agent, which greatly aids blood clotting.
  • Frightened whitetails produce high levels of B-endorphin, which supports rapid wound healing. Endorphins consist of morphine-like chemicals from the pituitary gland, allowing the animal to control pain.
  • Deer, particularly in northern areas, have thick layers of tallow along the back and below the brisket. This can plug wounds, preventing a good blood trail.
  • A string tracking device attached to a bow and arrow is sometimes useful in recovering game. However, the string does affect the arrow flight on long shots
Some good old fashioned common sense, patience and looking beyond the horns will often times produce the right conditions for your to harvest your next trophy buck.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Kansas Hunter's First Buck Scores 207 5/8

From the Topeka Capital-Journal comes an awesome story of a girl's first buck, sporting a rack that green gross scores 207 5/8. Last month Rachelle Karl went deer hunting with her boyfriend Kyle Sims - Rachelle was familiar with the outdoors, but had never gone hunting before she met Kyle three years ago. Kyle didn't know it yet, but he was about to score some serious boyfriend points on this trip.

Rachelle had unsuccessfully hunted deer for three seasons (she missed a few). So, before this season she put in a lot of practice hours at the range. With Rachelle shooting confidently, the couple got to their hunting spot in Dickinson County before sunrise on November 30. It wasn't long before this massive buck stepped out.
Kyle didn't want to send his girlfriend into a buck-fever panic so he didn't tell her just how big the deer was.
“I’m pretty illiterate when it comes to how big deer are and I just knew he had antlers and that he was good-sized,” Rachelle said.

They waited for 15 minutes for the buck to turn broadside and then Rachelle finally squeezed the trigger on Kyle's dad's .243. The deer was 220 yards away.

She hit the buck, but it ran straight at them so she shot again and dropped him for good at 60 yards.
The taxidermist gross scored the deer at 207 5/8 inches with a net typical score of 178 2/8 and a net nontypical score of 198 4/8. They'll have to wait for the rack to dry to get an official B&C score.
Needless to say, the new hunter is now hooked.

“I’m excited to go hunting next year,” she said. “I know this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing, but I’m just excited to be out there.”

by Alex Robinson

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deer Farmers Plan Another Push for Change

Metro News: The Voice of West Virginia
Another legislative fight appears looming over who regulates farm-raised deer in West Virginia.  Members of the West Virginia Deer Farmers Association are making another pitch to state lawmakers to move the responsibility for oversight on their industry from the West Virginia DNR to the state Department of Agriculture.
"There's a big difference between taking care of wildlife in their natural habitat and raising livestock on a farm," said Barbour County deer farmer Jack Rose to members of a joint legislative interim committee.
Rose believes the Department of Agriculture's oversight would give his industry more latitude to raise and sell products related to commercially raised whitetail deer.
"The Department of Ag is the most qualified when it comes to farming any animal behind a fence," said Rose. "Whereas the DNR is more qualified to regulate wildlife in a free-range environment."
The joint committee received a study from the WVU Extension Service who surveyed 22 deer farmers in West Virginia.
"Deer farming may provide an opportunity for farmers to diversify their operations and generate greater profits on smaller parcels of land than those afforded by traditional farming practices," said Daniel Eades from WVU.
The West Virginia DNR is opposed to removing deer farms from their area of responsibility.  
"They believe whitetail deer raised in a fence are livestock.  We contend that whitetail deer are whitetail deer," said DNR Director Frank Jezioro. "I guess if you have a Black Angus cow out on the free range running free--he's a Black Angus cow.  But if you fence him up--he's still a Black Angus cow, the species doesn't change.  We feel the whitetail deer is the same way."
Jezioro says the biggest fear is the potential spread of chronic wasting disease.   CWD is already present in the wild deer herd in Hampshire and Hardy County and is spreading.   Jezioro acknowledged there's been no known CWD contamination in a West Virginia deer farm, however, nationally biologists agree the disease seems to spread more rapidly among captive cervid herds in other parts of the United States. 
"The domestic animals the Department of Agriculture deals with, most of those can be vaccinated," Jezioro said. "Deer cannot be vaccinated for CWD.  There is no live test for it."
Four years ago a similar fight led to a working agreement and the present rules governing deer farms in the state. The agreement was brokered and shepherded through the process by Senator Karen Facemyer of Jackson County who championed the matter. 
Jezioro says he doesn't support an outright ban deer farming in West Virginia.  He says there is a movement toward such the drastic action which has happened in neighboring states of Virginia and Maryland.  But, he adds the rules created four-years ago are working and shouldn't be a moving target.
"We think we have a good working relationship with the Department of Agriculture and the deer farmers and we stand ready to continue working with the deer farmers," said Jezioro. "But we don't see changing the rules or the laws every year or every time a farmer gets into the business." 

 Chris Lawrence

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Urban Deer Hunting In Connecticut

I was just about to put another log on the fire when the phone rang, startling my old retriever, Buddy, from his January slumber. It was my good friend Joe Tucker from Whitetail Solutions llc.
"Got a good one this morning." Joe said matter of factly.
"How big?" I asked, knowing that Joe is a man of few words.
"He may make the book." He replied, referring to the Pope and Young record book.

Now the fact that Joe shot a big buck is not surprising. He is a very accomplished bow hunter and has harvested many good bucks. What is surprising is that Joe was hunting a 3 acre piece of land in a densely populated neighborhood!

  More and more bow hunters are discovering that urban deer hunting can pay big dividends. Nowhere is this more evident than in my home state of Connecticut, particularly Fairfield County. We have very affluent communities continuously growing and encroaching on the whitetails habitat. We also have a whitetail herd that has largely gone unchecked, continuously growing and encroaching on the homeowner’s habitat. Throw in a debilitating affliction like Lyme disease, and you have a recipe for disaster.

There are households in Fairfield County where every member of the family has had Lyme disease, largely as a result of there being lots of deer in their yard every single day. Deer are the primary host for the deer tick, and are key to the reproductive success of the tick. Numerous studies have shown that the abundance of deer ticks is directly related to deer densities.

Lyme disease is just one of the problems associated with a deer herd that grossly exceeds the carrying capacity of the land. Deer vehicle collisions have become commonplace in some Fairfield County towns. There are approximately 18,000 deer killed on Connecticut roadways in deer-vehicle collisions every year, costing an estimated $28 million in damage, and injuring hundreds of people, some fatally.

Perhaps the biggest problem with an overabundant deer population is the ecological damage. Deer eat between 5 and 10 pounds of food per day and cause literally millions of dollars in damage to ornamental planting such as shrubs, trees and flowers planted by homeowners. They can also change the composition and diversity of native plants, sometimes eliminating them all together, to the detriment of other animals in the ecosystem.

Many different methods have been tested to reduce the overabundance of deer. Some simply don't work; others prove to be way too costly. Time and again hunting proves to be the best method of controlling the deer population. However, landowners need a way to find safe, ethical hunters to help them reduce the number of deer on their property. That is where a company such as Whitetail Solutions comes in.

Started in 2004 by Joe Tucker, Dan Beyer, Chris Tucker, and Bob Mitchell, Whitetail Solutions llc now has a pro staff of 10 safe, ethical, fully licensed and insured bow hunters that specialize in reducing deer numbers in overpopulated areas, and the response has been overwhelming. They are contacted daily by landowners looking for help in managing the deer population. Of course, not every property is suitable for hunting, so they also provide alternative solutions, such as fencing and repellents.

Whitetail solutions donates the deer they harvest to Connecticut food banks and also founded the Hunt To Feed program, where Connecticut hunters can donate their deer to local food banks at no cost to the hunter. Whitetail Solutions provides the funds to pay for processing.

Businesses are started by entrepreneurs who recognize a problem and provide solutions to that problem, and Whitetail Solutions is no exception. They saw the pressing problem of a grossly overabundant deer population, and homeowners looking for a means of protecting both themselves and their property, and they provided solutions.

Landowners can contact them at for a free consultation. There is never a charge to remove deer through hunting; however you can purchase other deer deterrent products from them.

If you are a hunter, you can participate in the Find a Hunter Program. You may find yourself hunting in an area with a large deer population, and some old, well fed deer in the area, possibly the buck of a lifetime! Get involved in urban deer hunting. You'll be glad you did!

by John VanDerLaan

Monday, December 12, 2011

Missouri hunters fight hunger by sharing deer harvest!

Missouri hunters donated more than 800 pounds of venison that were unloaded Thursday at The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri.

Supported by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Missouri Conservation Federation, local food banks and meat processors, the Share the Harvest program has received about 7,500 pounds of venison so far this year from hunters in central and northeast Missouri.

For the past 20 years, the public-private cooperation has benefited low-income families.
In 2010, about 6,100 deer that produced 350,000 pounds of venison were processed through Share the Harvest. Hunters donated 4,600 deer in 2009 and 4,200 in 2008.

Gov. Jay Nixon, who helped unload venison Thursday morning at the food bank with First Lady Georganne Nixon, said he was pleased by the increase in participation.

"This year, through the support of my administration to the Missouri Association of Food Banks and our private partners, we are able to accept 10,000 deer — that's our goal," Nixon said. 

Nixon, a hunter, said he has personally participated in the program for the past four years. "I harvested a deer from Pulaski County after attempting to harvest one further north earlier in the season," he said. 
Though the main portion of the deer hunting season ended last Sunday, "it's still time to get involved," Nixon said. "There are still deer out there, and we are still in a situation where we can meet our targets." 

The archery season is ongoing through Dec. 31 and the hunting calendar also marks an upcoming muzzleloader season and a January youth hunt.

"Any contribution will make a real difference," Nixon said.
After killing deer, hunters should tell their local meat processor how much venison they'd like to contribute, from a few pounds to an entire deer.

In addition, Nixon noted the financial incentives for hunters to donate.

There is no charge to process donated venison in many places across the state, and in every case, partners strive to keep the costs processing down for participating hunters, he said.

Peggy Kirkpatrick, executive director of The Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri, thanked Missouri hunters for their generosity.

"The meat is now ready to go to different food pantries and will be donated to needy families," Kirkpatrick said, noting the value of protein in a balanced diet.

Depending on the supply, each family might receive one or two packages of one pound of meat, she said.
Through this action, Nixon said, Missouri hunters are encouraged to fight hunger and foster hope. 

By: Kevin Dubouis

Friday, December 9, 2011

Deer Antler Information

Antlers are found on all members of the deer family (Cervidae) in North America including deer, elk, caribou, and moose. Caribou are the only species in which antlers are typically found on females.

Antlers are often called “horns” by deer hunters, but they are not. Horns are found on sheep, goats, and cows and are formed from hair-like tissue that grows over a bony core. Horns are typically not shed, and some species, like big horn sheep, can be aged by counting the annual growth rings on their horns.

Unlike horns, antlers are true bone and are composed primarily of calcium and phosphorus and are deciduous. Deciduous means antlers are dropped or shed and grown anew each and every year. They grow from pedicels located on the frontal bone of the skull. The pedicels which begin growing at a couple months of age in buck fawns provide the base from which the antler will grow. The small hair covered bumps on a six month old male fawn’s head (a button buck) are the pedicels. They are not antlers. Infantile antlers or actual hardened antlers on a buck fawn have not been documented in Virginia but have been reported in other states. Deer grow their first set of antlers when they are approximately one year of age.

The skin or tissue that develops at the top of the pedicel reacts to hormones in the deer body and actually causes an antler to grow/develop. The most interesting aspect of this antler growth tissue is that, if it is surgically removed and grafted to another part of the deer’s body, an antler will grow there. For example, it would be possible to surgically produce a unicorn deer or a deer with 10 antlers growing out of its skull or any other part of the body.

The annual antler cycle is ultimately controlled by day length or photoperiod. The brain contains a kind of clock that measures the periods of light and dark and uses this information to ultimately control the secretion of the reproductive hormone testosterone in males. Testosterone controls the antler cycle. In tests, bucks kept in constant 12 hours of light and dark were unable to shed their antlers and grow new ones, and bucks kept in constant light grew and lost three sets of antlers in two years.

Growth of antlers typically begins in April in response to increasing day length. In fact, antler growth is one of the fastest known types of tissue growth in mammals, and a deer’s antlers can grow at a rate of ¼ inch per day. Antler growth begins by a bud forming on the pedicel. Within a month the first tine or brow tine will have begun to form or split off. Approximately a month later, the second tine (G2) will have begun to form. In just four months, the antlers are fully developed. During the summer months of antler growth, bucks live in reclusive bachelor groups and restrict their movements.

When the antlers are growing, they are full of nerves and blood vessels and are covered with a hairy skin covering tissue commonly called “velvet.” Antler growth is like building a skyscraper. What is first built is the structure or a frame or matrix. Think of pouring concrete; you must first build a form. That is what deer do. During the early summer, deer antlers are soft to the touch or spongy. Towards the middle of summer, as the form is being finished, the deer begins to “pour” the bone.

By late summer, as day length decreases, testosterone levels begin to increase, the form is filled, and the antler begins to harden. Finally the blood vessels within the antler itself are filled and lose their ability to nourish the velvet, and it dries up and falls off. The velvet is typically totally removed in a day, and some of it may be eaten by the buck. In Virginia, most deer are in hard antler by September 15th. Contrary to popular belief, deer do not rub their antlers on trees just to remove the velvet. In any given year, an individual buck may make hundreds of rubs, 99.9% of which are made after the velvet has already been removed.

Hard antlers remain on the deer through the peak of breeding (mid November in Virginia) until late fall or early winter. In response to continuing shortening of daylight and decreasing testosterone levels after the rut, an abscission zone forms at the junction of the pedicel and antler. An erosion of the bone takes place at this seam and eventually the antler falls off, leaving a bloody depression which quickly scabs over. Both antlers may fall off at exactly the same time, or one antler may be held for weeks or months after the first antler is shed. Each year in Virginia, the Department receives calls in late December about deer hunters shooting shed-antlered bucks. Most bucks in Virginia shed their antlers in January and/or February, but the Departments frequently receives reports of deer in hard antler in March up to April. Several rules of thumb can be applied to when deer shed their antlers. Large antlered older bucks typically shed their antlers earlier than young small antlered bucks. This may be due to the large amount of energy they expend during the rut. Similarly, deer in good condition typically hold their antlers longer than deer in poor condition.

Antler size is determined by three factors: age, nutrition, and genetics. Age is the simplest factor and also easy to manage. Simply put, as a buck gets older, his antlers get bigger. When a buck is 1-1/2 years of age and grows his first set of antlers, in Virginia on average he will have four points, a 16mm or 5/8 inch antler beam diameter (~ dime diameter), and just over an 8-inch outside spread. By the time he is 2-1/2, the average buck in Virginia has grown to 7 antler points, 24mm or 15/16 inch beams (quarter diameter), and has about a 14-inch outside spread. A typical 2-1/2 year old buck will probably average about 110 B&C. If you want to hunt/kill big bucks, these 2-1/2 year old bucks should also not be shot. At 3-1/2 and older, he will average 8 points, 29mm or 1-1/8 inch beams, and a greater than 16-inch outside spread. The average B&C score should be about 125.

Antler data from across the eastern United States clearly indicates that deer make significant increases in antler characteristics between 1-1/2 and 2-1/2 and again between 2-1/2 and 3-1/2, but then begin to plateau. If you pass up a yearling buck and he survives, the data indicates he will be significantly bigger next fall. The same “return on investment” logic applies to 2-1/2 year old bucks. It does not apply to 3-1/2 and older bucks. They will be bigger, but on average the increase in antler size will be fairly small. In free ranging deer herds, it is very difficult to manage for deer 4-1/2 and older. A buck does not reach his maximum antler potential until he is 4-1/2 to 7-1/2 years of age. After that his antler size will begin to decline. These “over the hill” bucks represent less than one tenth of one percent of the antlered bucks killed in Virginia in the last five years.

Nutrition is also simple; a deer has to have enough to eat to grow antlers. In overabundant deer herd condition suffers, and antler characteristics can also be expected to be compromised. The best way to address deer over abundance is to kill more does and reduce the deer herd density. Typically, there is a direct inverse relationship between deer density and the physical condition of animals within a herd. As deer population density increases, overall herd condition and reproductive rates decline. Conversely, as deer population density decreases, health improves and reproductive rates rise. With all that said, feeding deer and putting out mineral licks will not make deer grow big gigantic antlers like the pictures on the bags because it cannot make them older.

Genetics is not simple. For example, the old hunter’s tale that once a spike always a spike is not true, but that is not to say genetics does not play a role in deer antlers. Research done by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has proven that antler characteristics are inheritable (i.e., they can be passed from generation to generation), but it may be a moot point; because when a hunter looks through a scope and sees a deer, he cannot see its genes. In free-ranging deer, managing antler genetics may not be possible. Hunters will often say, “Well, stock some of those big Illinois deer and let them breed!” First of all, how long would they survive? Maybe a day and, if they did survive, their “genetics” would not have any measurable impact. It would be akin to putting one drop of red food dye in the Pacific Ocean and expecting it to turn red. It would not work.
There are several unique antler facts that will surprise and interest most deer hunters. One of the most unique is the impact that an injury to the back leg of a buck has to subsequent antler development on the opposite site. For example, the next time you see a deer with a normal rack on the right and a twisted stunted rack on the left, check its back right leg for injury. For some reason, after a buck has a serious injury to a hind limb, it will cause the opposite antler to be abnormal and stunted. The cause for this is unknown, but it is more common than most deer hunters realize. This stunting effect will persist even after the hind leg heals.
A second unique male antler anomaly is a “cactus” buck. These bucks suffer from very low testosterone production due to hypogonadism or cryptochidism (i.e., their testicles are the size of a green pea or never descend from the body cavity). Because they never experience a fall surge of testosterone, the antlers are never shed. Each year new velvet and antler material is grown over and around the existing antler. Over time this gives the antlers the look of a gnarly “cactus.” These bucks are not common, but a couple are reported killed in Virginia each year.

Because the testosterone plays such an important part of the antler cycle, castration in deer can have a profound effect on antlers. If a male fawn is castrated early, he will never grow pedicels or antlers. If a deer is in hard antler and is castrated, he will lose his antlers normally and grow a new set, which will never shed their velvet. If a deer is in velvet and is castrated, he will never shed his velvet or lose his antlers.
What about non-typical antlers. Well, the jury is still out, but there is probably a genetic component. As noted above, injury can cause abnormal antlers, but many of the anomalies commonly seen on deer antlers (e.g., drop tines, kicker points, abnormal tines, palmated antlers) are not caused by injury. Age is also a factor. Many typical antlered bucks begin to pick up abnormal antler characteristics such as kickers and beauty points about the burr as they get older. When they get really old, in their teens, their antlers typically look like small twisted bonsai trees.

What about antlered does. Yes, does can have antlers. If you took a normal doe and treated her with testosterone, she would grow antlers. Hunters typically encounter two types of antlered “does”; those with hard antlers and those in velvet. Does with velvet covered antlers usually have normal female reproductive tracts and can bear fawns. Does with hardened antlers are almost always male pseudohermophrodites. These animals have female external genitalia, but have male organs (testicles) internally.

By: W. Matt Knox