Ask The Biologist

Call me Pat

Call me Pat

By Bob Humphrey

What could cause a buck to start growing antlers in mid-October?

QUESTION: I live in Illinois and was out checking trail cameras this weekend (late December). It appears that I have a deer around 6 or 7 that just started growing his antlers in mid-October and has been gradually getting bigger over the past two months. I’ve never heard or seen anything like this. What would the reason? — Matt

ANSWER: Nowadays it seems like even the whitetails are confused. Without more information it’s difficult to say with any certainty, but I can speculate.

One possibility is the deer suffered some sort of injury or illness that disrupted its normal hormone cycle. Typically, a mature buck should sport hard (dead) antlers in late December. As testosterone levels decline, an abcission line forms between the antler base and the skull, causing the antlers to eventually fall off. New antlers begin growing immediately, but growth is very slow until spring, when the days grow longer.

An injury, particularly to the genitals, could disrupt this cycle and cause aberrant growth.

Another possibility is the animal in question is an antlered doe, in which case the growth cycle would also be abnormal, and antlers might even remain in velvet indefinitely. The same is true for bucks with malformed secondary sex characteristics, sometimes referred to as stags.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd