Antlers and Spots

It’s mid-August and some subtle changes are taking place in the whitetail deer world. Buck antlers are beginning to harden and their soft spongy protective velvet covering will soon start to dry and peel off. And fawn spots are beginning to fade as well—a sign that a seasonal change is about to take place. Once its first winter coat starts to grow in, a fawn’s iconic white spots will be gone forever.

During the summer, whitetail bucks travel together in bachelor groups, leaving child-rearing responsibilities to the does. That is also the time of year when their antlers grow. Each winter, a buck sheds his antlers and begins growing a new set the following spring. Deer antlers can grow at the astonishing rate of ½-inch per day. Even at birth, a whitetail buck fawn can be identified by the two dark spots located just above his eyes, which are called pedicles. They are the bases upon which his antlers will grow as he matures. To read more about deer antler development, click on this link: http://www.lifeinthefingerlakes.com/antlers-or-horns/.

But other changes are taking place that affect whitetail deer behavior as well. Deer movement is significantly altered by the harvesting of farm crops, which impacts their daily routine quite a bit. In most cases, not only has a food source been removed, but so has a form of natural cover. A deer can hide undetected in a mature cornfield all day long and nurture itself in the process until it’s harvested. Baling hay and straw and the spreading of manure on harvested fields also affects a deer’s routine behavior. In my quest to photograph deer, I have to recognize these changes and readjust my own routine in order to be successful. If they’re not where they were before, I have to figure out where they went.

A recent Facebook post questioned why a doe was being aggressive toward a pair of fawns and pondered whether those fawns were even hers. The post showed pictures that appeared to back that up. My guess is that the doe is indeed their mother and that she is in the process of weaning them. Most fawns are about three months old now and capable of surviving on natural browse. They no longer need to nurse. In another three months, the doe will disperse her young altogether so that she can mate again.


Story and Photo by John Adamski