Deer shed their antlers every year, usually from January through March. If you know what to look for, you can explore Weston's woods and go on a shed hunt!
Male whitetail deer are called bucks and they grow antlers during the summer. The antler is a honeycomb, bone-like tissue they use to fight other bucks and also to “rub” trees to mark their territory. While the antlers grow, they are covered in a velvet-like texture; however, high levels of testosterone during "rutting" (mating) season cause the velvet encasing to die off and bucks will also rub trees to help remove it. A drop in testosterone, after the rut, causes weakness in the connection tissue and the antlers fall off.
Antlers drop annually in late winter, typically January through March. The dropped antlers are called “sheds” and the process does not hurt the buck. From spring through summer, the antlers grow back and are usually bigger than the previous year. From August through September, the antlers lose the velvet encasement in preparation for the whitetail breeding season. The breeding season is know as "rutting" and it occurs from October to early December. The cycle then repeats.
In addition to rubbing trees, bucks will also “scrape” the ground with their hooves. Deer moving in the area use these scrapes as a form of communication. Female deer, called does, will urinate in the scrape as a way to tell the buck they are nearby. Indicators that deer are in the area, like tree rubs, scrapes, droppings, bedding, and tracks are called “deer signs.”
Left: an example of what a tree rub looks like; Right: an example of a deer scrape
We are currently at the point where bucks are shedding their antlers, which makes this a great time of the year to head into the woods to go shed hunting! To find the sheds, you must first find deer signs. These indicate where there is deer activity are where there is most likely going to be a shed.
Look for bedding areas, travel routes, and food plots as a starting place for your hunt. Bedding areas can be identified by the deer-sized depressions made in long grasses. Travel routes are narrow, worn paths and will be marked with many hoof prints. Food plots, like agricultural fields or an area laden with acorns, and water sources are also great places to be on the lookout.
Deer bedding area
For more information about whitetail deer, check out the deer information web page from Mass Fish and Wildlife! And, be sure to let us know in the comments if you have or do find sheds or anything else interesting while out enjoying nature!
Happy shed hunting!