Whitetail Deer: Antler Velvet Peeling This Week

This is it -- the week whitetail watchers have been waiting for all summer. Antler velvet will peel sometime over the next two weeks in most areas of the country. Our fascination with antlers officially begins and from here on in it is all about wrapping your hands around a set of those beautiful horns.

Most bucks complete growing their antlers by mid-August. Antler tissue begins to mineralize and harden around that time and once the blood flow ceases and the tips of the antler harden, the peeling process begins. For some bucks it's a drawn out process lasting a couple of days, others get the job done in an hour or two. For all it's a messy process as the soft blood-filled skin is shredded and torn away from the hard bone.

This is a great time to get trail camera shots of peeling bucks. Lucky trail camera buffs sometimes get pics of bloody faced bucks working brush or using their hind hooves to work the soft peeling skin from their antlers. Most just pick up the change; one day he is in velvet, a day or two later he is hard horned. Most buck watchers will see some indication of antler peeling sometime between now and mid-September.

Deer antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues we know of. Whitetails are capable of growing an inch or more of antler in a 24-hour period. Antler growth is governed by photo-periodism, or the amount of daylight reaching a buck's gland receptors. It's all part of the fall breeding cycle: testosterone builds, antlers harden, dominance is established and does get bred. Ain't it all grand?

CC image from Flickr