Deer Antlers in Velvet

The yearly growth of antlers on White-tailed Deer bucks is noticeable in early summer, even on younger bucks. Triggered by day length and its influence on growth hormones in the pituitary gland, antler development begins in spring and continues through the summer. In this stage, antlers are a mix of cartilage, blood vessels and nerve tissue covered in a hairy skin or velvet, growing at an astonishing rate that may be unequaled in the animal world. Incredibly, these complex structures are transformed into hardened, polished, bone by early fall.


Buck in early June


Buck in late June (1 of 3)



Antler development and size are a function of age, nutrition and genetics. The deer in these photos are probably immature yearlings sporting their first set of antlers, so antler mass will be trumped by the physiological demands of body growth.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

6 thoughts on “Deer Antlers in Velvet

  1. Well done! That last shot especially makes them look so sweet and innocent, but around here they are becoming a serious nuisance. Hardly any predators (a rare cougar now and then) and hunting seems to be a dying sport.

    • Thanks Gunta. Trust me, I don’t go out of my way to capture “cute” and advocate antihunting when photographing deer. I still have photos of my graduate studies eons ago that show diverse, 20-foot-tall woody vegetation on plots fenced from deer and elk (“exclosures”) —– and virtually nothing but ferns outside the exclosures. I recently attended a wildlife tourism workshop and the keynote speaker showed trends in wildlife use, specifically consumptive vs nonconsumptive uses, and the demographics are alarming. Loss of free access due to urbanization, fragmentation and posting of traditional hunting areas in the private sector are major factors too. BTW: Three fourths of the meat we consume here is wild game – the original low-fat, green source of protein!

  2. I read your reply above too. I like venison myself and even had bison too. Both were given to me by my friend the hunter. I am not fond of hunting, but there really are an abundance of deer. Yesterday at a park I saw quite a few, even a fawn that I practically walked up to grazing as if no harm was in sight. I like your photos of the young bucks. At least now they are pretty docile. My friend the hunter also raises deer for the scent. The bucks are quite different when those antlers grow in, no petting allowed. I agree with Gunta, the last image is cute. I would rate it 8.5 on the cuteness scale.

    • Ha! The cute factor – I guess I need to work on that a little more seriously (not satisfied with 8.5/10 🙂 ). Interesting that your friend is in the scent business. Deer hunting, deer viewing, and the sale of deer-related products such as doe-in-heat scents, antlers and antler velvet generate mega millions. Google antler velvet; unbelievable. The local economies in north central PA would collapse in the absence of deer hunting! BTW I haven’t had the time to respond thoughtfully to all of the great posts I’ve seen this month – including your wonderful waterbird shots – but I will – the last load of firewood for winter 2014/2015 goes in the pole shed tomorrow! Thanks for the visit Donna.

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