The month of August is when whitetail bucks experience their final month of being “in velvet.”
By Labor Day, on most years, bucks will have stripped off the velvet covering on their antlers and become “hard horn,” displaying the iconic bone white rack we expect.
The velvet we are referring to of course is the apparent mysterious, dark and fuzzy looking substance that covers their growing antlers.
Whitetail antlers are some of the fastest growing cellular material of all animals, sometimes measured at growing up to one-quarter inch a day. Elk and moose antlers can grow up to one inch per day and even add a pound of antler per day!
The velvet is literally farmed and is used in cancer and bone research. Additionally, antler velvet has found its way into the human pharmacology treating various aliments and issues.
Antler velvet is marketed to relieve arthritis as well as healing torn ligaments and tendons in professional athletes. But due in part to its high amount of IGH (Insulin-like Growth Hormone) is banned in most professional sports including the Olympics because it stimulates HGH, which is our Human Growth Hormone.
Currently, deer antler velvet is sold as teas, extracts, capsules, and pills, easily available on the worldwide web and in local health food stores.
Antler velvet has been used as a medicine for thousands of years in different cultures, and is obtained from bucks during the velvet growth stage. Deer farms currently market antler velvet worldwide. Some of the major deer antler producers are in China, Russia, North Korea, and New Zealand.
Antler velvet has reportedly few side effects, unless taken in massive amounts, which has been reported to create alimentary canal issues and lots of gas.
Deer antlers when in the velvet stage are soft and easily damaged. When broken, which can happen when a buck runs through the woods, hits a tree limb with the antler, and knocks off part of the soft, bulbous tip, it will bleed profusely.
Antlers in velvet are reportedly the only appendages in the animal kingdom that have the same temperature as the body’s core, being almost hot to touch.
Antler fragility and vulnerability may be why most antlered bucks at this time of the year (summer) are so reclusive and rarely seen.
It stands to reason that if bucks in velvet were rushing around in the woods, as they do during the fall and winter, they could easily damage their delicate, soft growing antlers, so crucial to their fighting and breeding status just around the corner in October and November.
Usually, by mid-August, our whitetail buck’s antlers have all but quit growing.
In these final weeks of August, bucks antlers begin to “harden up.” And by early September, most bucks have lost the soft velvet covering, in a way, unsheathing the bone-white, lethally sharp fighting weapon.
In just a few weeks, by early September, bucks will rub their velvet as they almost continually spar and test their antlers on convenient branches, saplings, trees, and on each other.
Other Cervids such as elk, moose, caribou, and other deer such as Red deer and Mule deer all go through this same antler growing cycle, obtaining enough mineral mass in just a few months, from Spring to Fall.
Whitetails do not start growing their antlers until May, when the first bumps appear on their heads where they had dropped their antlers from the previous season.
Antler shedding, the dropping of antlers is quite varied, depending on the individuals. Some bucks have shed their antlers during deer season, in December, and others do not shed until April.
Researchers have determined that Cervids actually undergo a sort of osteoporosis by pulling the minerals and elements out of their bones. Antler genesis requires a large amount of calcium, magnesium and other minerals to form the mass of that much bone, so quickly.
Deer utilize the bone mass in their sternum and chest to provide the raw material for their antlers, having been quantified and measured by researchers.
When antlers are in fuzzy velvet, actually each tiny hair follicle is a sebaceous gland, producing a greasy substance called sebum. Researchers have determined that bucks make a special effort to smear the sebum on overhanging branches, scent marking these branches over scrapes as part of the whitetail communication network.
Amazingly, in just a month, these soft, vulnerable, dark velvety mysterious growths on a buck’s head will become the iconic, bone white, pointed fighting tools we admire and desire.
Author: Oak Duke