Before answering the question about when deer shed antlers, one must know why deer have antlers. The male deer, or bucks, have antlers as a dominant feature.
When bucks fight during the mating season, these antlers are valuable weapons that get them the edge over their competitors! Sometimes bucks get their antlers tangled, and if they cannot untangle them, they die of starvation.
The health of a buck’s antlers shows the overall fitness and health of the buck.
Deer begins to grow antlers in the spring season when the diet is abundant and in favorable weather. During the growing period, antlers are covered with tiny hair called velvet.
The velvet provides blood supply to the antlers so they can grow well and long. The mating season, or rut, finds bucks with strong antlers to fight with this force.
After rutting season, the deer is done with competitions and fights, so the antlers are of no use now. During this season, deer shed their antlers, and that too is a process that exhibits force from early December to early March.
In winters, the food is scarce, and many deer still need their antlers to fight other bucks over food. However, these fights are not as intense as the ones during the rutting season.
Food fights do not require headfirst hits or long fights meant to display power.
How do deer shed their antlers?
Antlers do not fall off, neither is it a minor change for the deer. Just as antler growth is difficult, shedding them is also a difficult phase! Growing antlers takes up a lot of calcium, which is a hard-to-find asset in the woods!
However, mature bucks use much of their energy in growing antlers. Once these calcium-rich bones fall off, they get used up by nature through rodents, and the remaining part gets recycled by the earth.
Deer often rub their antlers with trees as if they are itching. This action is forceful and usually allows antlers to fall off.
In late January, up to late March, hunters can find antlers in the woods, and quite often, these have already given some feed to rodents. The chewed-on and hollow antlers are no less than a trophy for many of us!
Summing it up
Deer have antlers as a defense mechanism so that they can fight other deer during rutting season.
In winters, deer need antlers for food fights, but that is not as intense as the rutting season fights.
Deer shed their antlers during winters and then grow a new pair in the spring season.