Winter Warming Trend

Kids Outdoor Outpost - February 2016

Joe Schuster | February 10, 2016

I had the opportunity to bowhunt with my sons a lot over the holidays, and we were able to harvest several deer. Prior to going out, we spent a lot of time preparing for the hunts and getting all of our winter outdoor gear ready. This meant opening up boxes and bags that we had stored, washing the clothing in scent-free detergent and baking soda and drying. However, we didn’t even need it. Most of the time we hunted, we enjoyed temperatures in the 60s and 70s. The abnormally warm winter we were having led to a discussion on the effect that these warm days could have on deer movement and maybe early antler dropping.

First, here’s a brief overview on antler growth from some folks who know a lot about this sort of stuff, the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). According to their website, antler growth is mostly controlled by two main factors, hormones and photoperiod, or the amount of light during each day.

Antlers have their primary growth period during spring and summer. The antlers begin to mineralize (harden) in August and September as their testosterone levels increase. These testosterone levels will come to a peak during the rut, which is when the main breeding cycle for a deer occurs. The timing of the deer rut varies across Georgia, but a good portion of our state’s deer breeding occurs sometime during the month of November.

Antlers grow from areas on the deer’s skull called the “pedicles.” As daylight hours begin to increase later on in the winter, the testosterone level decreases and the calcium between the antler and the pedicle is reabsorbed, the bond is weakened, and this causes the antlers to eventually drop.

Nutrition plays a roll in the timing of when antlers drop. Bucks that have good food availability are going to keep their antlers longer than those that don’t. If there are too many deer in the herd and more than the habitat can support, it may influence early antler dropping.

So, all of our warm weather did not have much of an effect on early antler dropping. However, antlers are dropping now, and the next few months will be a great time to look for sheds and see which bucks in your area survived. If you have food plots or feeders, these are great places to start looking.

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