QUESTION: When do bucks in Alabama lose and re-grow antlers? -- Breanne
ANSWER: The process of shedding begins after the rut, as testosterone decreases.
When it reaches a certain level, the layer of tissue between the pedicle (a permanent protrusion of the skull) and the antler base deteriorates. Eventually the antler falls off.
When bucks in Alabama, or anywhere for that matter, lose their antlers can vary considerably, depending on several variables.
Among these are stress and body condition. Healthy deer in good habitat will hold their antlers longer than stressed animals, or those in poor habitat with poor nutrition.
The rut is a form of stress, and the poor body condition of intensive rutting can cause testosterone to decline. It is believed that because older bucks do more of the breeding, they tend to drop their antlers earlier than younger bucks. This is sometimes less evident in populations with poorly balanced sex ratios where younger bucks may be more involved in rutting/breeding activities.
Other studies, particularly in the Southeast, have shown younger bucks dropping their antlers sooner than older bucks, suggesting dominance rank may also be a factor.
It should be noted that all these things occur on a gradient, and there can be considerable variation between individuals. I've received countless reports of bucks shedding their antlers much earlier or later than expected.
An injury that affects health, particularly testosterone levels, could delay or accelerate shedding.
If a buck's testes are injured early in the growth process, he may retain his antlers indefinitely, and they may even remain in velvet.
Regrowth begins almost immediately after antlers are shed. However, it is very slow in the early going.
It's not until the days start getting longer and warmer, and high-protein food becomes increasingly more available that the growth rate accelerates.
It becomes quite rapid through the summer, peaking toward summer's end. Then, decreasing daylight triggers increased testosterone production. Antlers mineralize, then their velvet covering dies and peels off, revealing an ornamental crown of dead bone.
But back to your original question about when Alabama bucks lose and re-grow antlers; Alabama is one of those weird states where the rut may occur as early as November in some counties, yet late January, or even February, in others. Bucks might shed their antlers anywhere from February to May because of these unusually varied breeding periods depending on which county you hunt.