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Deer: Post Season Scouting, Part 4 – The Significance of Shed Antlers

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Deer: Post-Season Scouting Part 4 – The Significance of Shed Antlers I’ll be the first to admit I’m a shed antler fanatic, especially when it comes to blacktail sheds. Each time I find an antler, a surge of energy rips through me as I frantically begin scanning the ground for the match. Unconsciously my mind conjures up images of the buck on the hoof and what he was doing - and more importantly, why. Looking back, there was a time I didn’t care too much about sheds. I might haul one out with me during a fall hunt from time to time but I certainly never put any thought into looking for them in the winter or early spring. All that’s changed over the last decade. Today, I look forward to the late winter and early spring nearly as much as the opener of early bow season. There are sheds to be found and they play a key role in my overall blacktail strategy. Before we dive in, let’s examine the physiology involved.  The Science Behind Shed Antlers The length of daylight, or photoperiod, decreases in late fall. The diminishing amount of daylight ...



Deer: Post-Season Scouting

Part 4 – The Significance of Shed Antlers


I’ll be the first to admit I’m a shed antler fanatic,
especially when it comes to blacktail sheds. Each time I find an
antler, a surge of energy rips through me as I frantically begin
scanning the ground for the match. Unconsciously my mind conjures
up images of the buck on the hoof and what he was doing – and more
importantly, why.
Looking back, there was a time I didn’t care too
much about sheds. I might haul one out with me during a fall hunt
from time to time but I certainly never put any thought into
looking for them in the winter or early spring. All that’s changed
over the last decade.
Today, I look forward to the late winter and early
spring nearly as much as the opener of early bow season. There are
sheds to be found and they play a key role in my overall blacktail
strategy. Before we dive in, let’s examine the physiology
involved.
 

The Science Behind Shed Antlers

The length of daylight, or photoperiod, decreases
in late fall. The diminishing amount of daylight reaching the back
of the deer’s eye triggers the pituitary gland to produce fewer
hormones, which in turn, drops the level of testosterone coursing
through a buck’s body. This reduction in testosterone is the major
catalyst that drives antlers to drop.
When testosterone levels drop significantly,
bone-eating cells called “osteoclasts” form at the
pedicle, where the antler attaches to the skull. These osteoclasts
reabsorb calcium from the antler, drawing it back into the skull.
Eventually, so much calcium is reabsorbed that only tiny,
threadlike connections called “spicules” hold the antler
in place. When these connections become too weak to support the
antler, it falls off. The process happens so quickly, scientists
have noted you could literally hang a moose by its antlers one day,
and the antlers would fall off under their own weight the next. As
a result, antlers release from the pedicle

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