Story and photo by John Adamski
I photographed this whitetail buck in Canaseraga State Forest, located just a few miles south of my house. He’s growing a new set of antlers, which is a process that takes place annually. Each male member of the North American deer family including caribou, elk, moose, mule deer, and whitetail deer, sheds his antlers every winter and begins growing a new set the following spring. With the exception of cow caribou, female deer do not normally grow antlers, although it has been known to happen on very rare occasions. Healthy whitetail bucks can grow a set of antlers at the astonishing rate of 1/2-inch per day, which I find amazing.
At this time of year deer antlers are covered with a soft, spongy material called velvet, which provides nourishment to the growing tissue and protects it from damage and injury. By late summer, antlers stop growing and begin to harden. Soon after, the velvet dries and falls off, revealing a rack of sharply-pointed antlers that will be used to attract does and ward off rival bucks in the upcoming rut, or mating season. Some folks believe that a buck can be “aged” by counting the number of points on his antlers but that is not the case. Even a two-year-old buck can carry as many as six or even eight points if he is healthy and well-fed. In farm country, where deer have unfettered access to crops like soybeans and corn, young bucks with a number of points are very common.