Woodland Headdress

For more than a year we have been watching a pair of yearling, sibling deer frequent the area. We call the doe, “Split-ear”, since she has a deep split running down her right ear, and her brother we call, “Splilt-ear’s Brother” because, well, he’s her brother. FD and I have often wondered if “Mama” of the triplets that we see almost daily, might be the mother of Split-ear and her brother, as we often see the six of them together via game cameras at the feeders. In the spring, just before a doe gives birth to her new offspring, she will hoof off last year’s fawns to protect her new babies and better patrol the area for predators. After about a month, her offspring from the year before are welcomed back into the fold if they wish. Split-ear and her brother kept company together over the spring and summer months, just as our orphaned rehab fawns, Emma and Ronnie, did last year.

Looking at game camera footage last week, we noted that Split-ear’s brother’s antler velvet was beginning to dry and crack. “From the time the new antlers begin growing from the pedicles until they reach their full size, they are covered with a soft skin called “velvet.” Tiny blood vessels in the velvet bring food and minerals to the growing antlers. If you were able to touch this velvet, it would feel very warm because of all the blood flowing through it. This velvet covering also may help keep the deer cooler in the summer by bringing some of the animal’s body heat to the surface where it can escape. An antler in velvet is soft, tender, easily injured, and will bleed if cut. Bucks make every effort to protect their growing antlers; a serious injury could produce a deformed set. Once the three-month, rapid-growth period is over, the antlers begin to harden (mineralize) beneath the velvet.

By September the fully developed antlers have hardened, and the buck’s body starts getting ready for the breeding season. His complex hormone balance changes, and the blood supply to the antlers is cut off. The unnourished velvet dies and begins peeling away from the hardened antlers. As the buck rubs his antlers on trees and brush, he eventually rubs off all the velvet, but until this is accomplished, it is not unusual to see bucks running around with shreds of dried velvet hanging from their antlers. Once more, majestic, polished antlers adorn the buck’s head when the breeding season starts. Then, if the buck is not harvested during the hunting season, he will again shed his antlers, just as he did the year before.” (White-Tailed Deer, TPWD)

Ronnie’s velvet is cracking and beginning to bleed in a few spots in this image. He shed his velvet that very night, with only a few strands of skin hanging the next morning. He spent that day cleaning his antlers, and the next few weeks whacking and rubbing his antlers on every shrub and bush on the place! Emma and Ronnie stayed together until late October when Emma ran off as the rut started. Ronnie followed suit a few days later.

FD and I were fortunate enough to witness Ronnie deer shedding his velvet last year. And we were also unfortunate in losing many of our shrubs and bushes to his continual whacking, rubbing, and sparring. Of course we did not mind. It was a tremendous experience to watch Ronnie mature with his first set of antlers, preparing for his first rutting season. But, we were a bit surprised and got a good chuckle out of Split-ear and her brother the other night. Even Split-ear didn’t know what to think!

Split-ear sharing a little early morning snack with the local raccoon. The raccoon looks nervous and about to run.
Something spooks Split-ear too!
Woodland monster lurking!

It’s Split-ear’s brother! Apparently in the process of ridding himself of his antler velvet, he became entangled in a vine! Adorned with this new crown of glory, he certainly seems to be the most fearsome buck in the woodlands… at least for one night!

Where IS everyone?

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


31 thoughts on “Woodland Headdress

    1. We laughed so hard. I wish we’d seen Split-ear’s brother with that crown of vine during the daylight hours, but it was all gone the next afternoon when we saw him again. However, he was still working his new antlers on every low-growing shrub and bush in the woodlands!

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  1. I just reading this post, word for word. Your blog and maybe 3 other blogs that I follow are ones that I read intently. I a generally amused and if not amused then I am sad,. I have found that almost all pots are educational and written in a style that I find interesting. I sure hope all of these deer make it, to next y ear. Maybe that is an unreasonable expectation since the woods are likely filled with hunters who shoot merely because they want to kill something. If they needed food, it would be a different story.

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    1. There is so much information on the biology of deer. It’s fascinating to me. When I raised our first orphaned deer, Daisy, I often sought information about her species so I could understand the ways of her kind. The most reliable information comes from state biologists and their studies, and hunters who have observed them for many years.

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      1. It sounds as though you could contribute to that body of information. Do you have citizen scientist research where you are? We have programs here in astronomy, and biology (for birds and frogs for example) where ordinary interested people can take part in gathering data for scientists to analyse.

        We have deer here in Australia although they are not native. I think they’re such elegant mysterious creatures. I’m in awe of you actually raising one.

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        1. Here, I only know about citizen help in researching birds, especially during migration and wintertime flocks. I don’t know about any programs for observing mammals and documenting activity, but that’s a good idea to look into. Thanks for this suggestion!!

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    1. Oh thank you! If you do draw it I hope you’ll share it! Seeing the tendrils of ivy or vine as beautiful is a wonderful perception. I love this about comments from various people… everyone sees something a little different!

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  2. That’s absolutely hilarious! He looks like Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Considering that one of Puck’s lines in the play is “I am that merry wanderer of the night,” and that he’s often shown wearing the leafy garb of a woodland sprite — well, you just never know. Do you suppose your deer’s been auditioning for the local repertory theater?

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  3. Wonderful sequence of night photos! Reminds me of the slapstick comedy tv shows I used to enjoy long long ago, especially the Texaco Theatre with Milton Berle.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040041/  He could easily make a skit out of this scene. I liked the crazy get-ups he would wear. Also I just remembered some of the whacky scenes in Midsummer Night’s Dream, especially when one of the characters pretends he’s a tree. (I was a teacher, and the kids always loved that part)

    The information about antlers is really interesting. I had heard about the velvety covering, but I didn’t realize that it might be hard to shed. Learnig a lot here, and smiling while at it.

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  4. You’re the second person to mention A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From the photos, it doesn’t appear that Split-ear’s brother is bothered a bit by his crown of ivy. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could tell what animals thought IF indeed they do think? There is so much that I’ll never know or understand… but I sure have questions!

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  5. Late to the show this week, Lori, and what a show! I too knew about the velvet and how it grew, but didn’t know the antlers were shed each year… or forgot if you told us previously. This was a wonderful sequence. So glad you caught it and shared here!

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