Sunday, September 14, 2014

Whitetail Bucks Shed Velvet

Whitetail Buck Lip-Curls As Pre-rut Begins
Most whitetail bucks shed there velvet in a period ranging from late August through mid-September. This buck still had velvet on September 2nd, but a close look revealed that the velvet was dried and cracked looking.  By September 7th, small bloody areas and bare spots were visible.

Shedding Is About To Occur
He still had velvet at dawn on September 9th, but I have no still photos at that point as I was filming the deer with the Panasonic GH4 as he alternated between feeding and grooming.  Suddenly the time was at hand and he walked to a group of nearby hay bales and attacked them violently.  Again all of this was filmed, but no stills were taken.  The video is not the best quality as it was still too early for good light, but I hope to post a short clip  in the near future.  I took a still photo of the bales after the action was over.

Hay Bales After Buck Attacked Them
I did get some still photos after the action was over.  Unfortunately as a result of using the bale instead of a a tree or brush to loosen the velvet, the buck ended up with a tangle of vines and baler twine caught in his antlers.

Vines And Baler Twine Tangled In Antlers
At this point there was still a lot of velvet on the antlers and for some time he ran about the meadows trailing a stream of vines behind him as he went.  I have not seen anything like this in over forty years of whitetail deer photography.

I saw the buck again that evening and the velvet and vines were gone, but a tangle of baler twine remained.

A Tangle Of Twine
I was a bit concerned at this point as the tangle seemed so severe that I was afraid he could not dislodge the twine.Luckily he was able to free it from his antlers eventually.

With the shedding completed pre-rut activity such as sparring and lip-curling becomes more common and will continue throughout the fall with activity growing more intense until things explode as the full-blown rut begins and bucks are more visible than at any other time of year as they frantically chase does and compete with other bucks for dominance.

Bucks Spar As Pre-rut Begins

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.