I was filming at a waterhole in eastern Kansas today, and five nice velvet bucks came in well before sundown. That in itself was a treat resulting in great film, but then I really got lucky. I looked to the other side of the pond, and a bruiser buck in the process of shedding his velvet stopped for a quick drink. The animal was there for less than a minute, but that was enough for a glimpse of this rarely-seen stage that lasts only a couple of hours before the antlers are stripped.
The headgear was bright red with fresh blood, and some of the velvet was hanging in tatters. Blood was also splattered on the buck’s face. This is common when velvet is stripped, since the remnant blood supply to the hardened antlers “bleeds” when the deer rubs the outer tissue off. The buck had obviously come straight from his first session of rubbing. Especially on hot days like this one, red blood dulls quickly to a rusty brown.
I hoped the buck might finish cleaning his antlers in the woods behind and come back out before dark, but of course he didn’t. Even so, it was one of those rare sights one might never see again. In the short video following, compare a buck with velvet antlers to the deer in transition. This will occur shortly for all bucks, and most will have clean antlers by September 10.