That’s why deer shed their antlers each year, as we see captured here in the trail cam video below. While it’s shocking to see it happen so suddenly, this is just part of life for bucks a certain time of year.
Antlers – a structure made of bone, cartilage, fibrous tissue, skin, nerves, and blood vessels – are actually extension of the animal’s skull.
Antlers typically begin to grow in early spring as the days grow longer and warmer temperatures trigger hormones that encourage their growth. As they grow, antlers are covered in a soft layer referred to as velvet. This velvet layer supplies blood and nutrients to the fast-growing antlers.
There are a few factors that determine the magnitude of antlers. According to the Mississippi State Deer Ecology and Management Lab, factors such as age, genetics and diet have a significant impact on the size and quality of antlers.
However, in early fall as buck’s testosterone rises, antlers harden and the velvet dries out, making them primed for mating season and potential battles with foes in the fight for mates. These tough, hardened weapons won’t grow any bigger at this point of the year. If the buck is successful, he’ll find a mate that he can pass on his genetics to – including the traits for his antler growth.
But it takes a lot of energy to grow and function with these attractive antlers. That’s why after the mating season, or rut, is over, the antlers are no longer needed and shed.
All this seems like a lot of trouble to go through to just get a mate, but it’s a sacrifice these bucks are willing to make.