I thought things would come early this year. It appears that my assumptions haven’t panned out.
I’ve been checking my trail cameras every weekend for the last month hoping to find that bucks that have holes in their heads instead of headgear used for battle last fall. Regardless of how the weather has been, I’ve been dying to get out and hike my hunting ground. It’s easy to admit that I’m frustrated because I can’t.
Unlike many other people, that majority of the bucks I capture on trail camera each week have not yet shed their antlers. The first buck I could verify that shed his antlers was around Jan. 18. Since then no other bucks have shed.
There is no way to pinpoint when this will happen each year. I think it’s much easier to predict when velvet will be shed from antlers. That happens within two weeks each year at the end of August and the beginning of September. But the increase in day length and a drop in testosterone levels seems to trigger a more random timing for discarding antlers to start new growth.
The guy that hunts across the road sent me a picture of a matched set of antlers he found a few weeks ago. They were from the buck he hunted the last month of the season and looked to be around the 150-inch mark by common scoring standards. It was an enviable find.
The antler find was accompanied by pictures of that buck and another without antlers the first week of February.
With all the information I can gather, bucks that were at least 4 years or older were the first to shed their antlers. The first for me came around Jan. 18, and the two a half-mile away dropped them the first week of February. The remaining bucks that I’ve been watching are mostly two and three years old, and have yet to cast their antlers away.
I have another set of cameras on the other side of the county that has also documented that all two and three year old bucks continue to carry around their antlers. Unfortunately, there were no older bucks to factor in from that area, but both sets of trail cameras have captured comparable information.
I try to use my trail cameras to find out when the right time is to start looking for shed antlers. For me it always seems to be the first week of March. For others it could be more than a month earlier.
I’ve always found antlers fascinating because they are grown new a change with each year. They are formed in a few months and then harden to a bone like structure. They are used to fight for breeding rights and defend life through winter months, and sought after by hunters throughout the country.
After a long season of use, they are simply discarded and left to return the nutrients that remain in them back to the earth. For a hunter left with a tag in hand, they can be a chance for redemption.
I assumed I’d get an early start on my chance for redemption. I guess it will have to wait another week or two.
Jon Kocan is the Stillwater News Press outdoors writer and a longtime hunter. He can be reached at email@example.com.