Close to this date several years ago a whitetailed deer shed a single, large four-point antler while nibbling on corn at a feeding station just outside the lunchroom at Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park Reserve near Victoria.
My group of elementary school students was amazed to see this and so was I as a seasoned naturalist. The buck we were watching continued eating for a few minutes and then left with only one antler. It’s much more common for antlers to fall off one at time.
Antlers are grown and shed annually and are usually dropped sometime between the middle of December and into February. If the antlers were grown to be used in defense against predators, they would not fall off in the winter when deep snow puts the deer in the greatest danger. During the breeding season, or rut, that starts about the last week of October and continues into December, bucks often fight using both their antlers and hoofs, for possession of a doe. The bucks in the finest condition and having the largest racks are usually the first to drop their antlers.
Many people are not aware that bucks shed their antlers because they have never found the shed antlers, which are difficult to see because they can become covered with leaves and snow. Wild mice and other animals gnaw them for their high calcium and phosphorus content, and by summer most of the antlers have been consumed, their minerals a part of another animal’s body.
Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.