Facts About Velvet Antlers

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Deer Rub Facts About Velvet Antlers

Have you seen a buck with its antlers covered in a soft coating and wondered what that is and why it’s there? That coating is known as “velvet” and it’s part of a white-tailed deer’s antler growth cycle. Learn more about velvet on a deer’s antlers below.

Why Do Deer Need Velvet on Their Antlers?

What we call the “velvet” on a deer’s antlers is made up of a bunch of tiny hairs. It feels velvety to the touch, hence why it’s referred to as “velvet.” The velvet’s purpose is to serve as a sensory alarm. It alerts the deer when its antlers brush against anything in their way. The deer need these alarm bells because a deer’s antlers are soft and vulnerable to damage from the time they begin growing in April until about mid-July. The antlers could easily be cut and because there are active blood vessels in the antlers, they could bleed to death. The fibers of the velvet help the deer know when their susceptible antlers are about to be put in danger.

When Do Deer Shed Them?

White-tailed deer grow velvet on their antlers throughout the spring and summer months and shed them generally sometime in mid-August. The velvet begins to shed off the antlers because the antlers are no longer receiving proper blood flow. The restriction of blood causes the velvet to dry out and peel off. Underneath the velvet, the deer’s antlers are beginning to calcify and harden. The hardening process takes a little less than a month, about 25 days.

A deer’s antler growth cycle is triggered by the amount of daylight, also known as photoperiod. When the days begin to get longer in the spring, blood flow begins reaching the pedicle which in turn promotes the antlers to grow. As the antlers grow, the blood flows through veins and arteries and creates a protein base which collects the minerals and promotes continued growth. Our Wild Water® Mineral Supplements can help provide the deer herd with these necessary minerals.

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As the days start to become shorter a deer’s genetics will automatically trigger hormone secretions in their pineal gland that will cause their velvet to start drying up. Keep in mind that the timeline mentioned is a general guideline and the exact time the deer shed their velvet could vary within that timeframe depending on where you live.

How Do Deer Shed Them?

Once the velvet begins to dry out, the deer will often help the process along by scraping their antlers against trees and various vegetation. As the velvet dries and falls off, it is essentially decomposing and rotting. The rot creates an unpleasant smell that the deer surely don’t want on their bodies. Deer like to remain as inconspicuous as possible, so the pungent odor is like a neon sign pointing at the deer alerting everyone and everything in the nearby vicinity that they’re there. It could alert everything from hunters to insects and pests of their presence, so they get rid of it. They can’t exactly put on deodorant or use soap like we can, so the only option for them is to get rid of it and peel it off. Though there’s no waying of knowing, it’s of course entirely possible that the velvet is uncomfortable on their antlers, as well. Deer usually shed their velvet within about two days from the time they start scraping.

The velvet on a deer’s antlers provides much needed protection as the antlers grow and calcify. Once it’s served the purpose, the deer will shed it off and reveal the healthy bone-like antlers underneath. Knowing the basics of this process will help you understand deer behavior and give you extra sign to scout as you prepare for the season ahead.

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What facts do you know about velvet antlers? Let us know in the comments below!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>