Death of a Huge Buck

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Macy Ledbetter 4 years, 3 months ago.

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    About 10 days ago we found the skull and antlers of a huge buck. To say that we were heartbroken would be an understatement..!

    The antlers looked as if they were at least from 2014 and I was really fooled as to who the buck was since we did not have a deer on the ranch that I recognized like that in 2014. He became our “mystery” deer. After a lot of false starts because of my error in aging the antlers, we finally realized that he actually was a buck that we had several trail cam photos of in the 2015 antler cycle. In fact we had pictures of him in what appeared to be excellent condition as recently as 5 weeks before we found the skull and antlers. He had a bit of velvet still attached to the antlers when he was found.

    I am now assuming that he died while in full velvet and that is why the antlers appeared to age so much in such a short time because they had not fully hardened. Most of our bucks clean up their antlers by mid September.

    My question is, is this a logical conclusion as to why the antlers look so old and have any of you had a similar experience?

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    Just a follow up of a couple of questions.

    Is it somewhat common for bucks to die right at the rub-out time for velvet?

    Also is there a increased incidence of death at this period due to some sort of mite infection?

    Both of these questions result from opinions that I have gotten from conversations with deer guys regarding the “unusual to me” death of this mature buck.


    Macy Ledbetter

    Sorry for the delay Paul, craziness on this end lately! Very sorry to hear about your buck ordeal but here are the answers to your GREAT questions.
    Yes, it is not so rare for bucks to die as/when they are rubbing out of velvet. Some bucks rub out literally overnight and in mere hours while others take several days. Remember, velvet is basically just external blood vessels so when a buck begins to rub off the velvet, it is a bloody process. You have likely seen the bloody velvet hanging from antlers or perhaps even a buck’s head that looked like he met Mike Tyson in an alley. In the wild, there are many things that enjoy blood but none more than coyotes and flies. There are a myriad of flies that feed upon fresh blood and actually lay their eggs, by the thousands, in fresh blood and decaying flesh/velvet/etc. So those bucks that linger and take days to strip the velvet off, all the while running around with fresh blood dripping on the ground, are simply attracting insects and coyotes. So it is entirely likely your buck was killed by coyotes or even died of blood poisoning related injuries as the flies swarmed his bloody head. Some bucks even injure their pedicles and skull while rubbing off the velvet and maggots enter under their skin or even inside their skull. Obviously, the results are the same and so it is not uncommon for buck to perish as they rub the velvet from their antlers.

    Texas is pretty much dry right now. The rains have been good for much of the spring and early summer but things are beginning to dry out. Right about early August, there were some outbreaks of EHD, a blood related disease caused by biting midges (tiny fly-like critters). Obviously August is also the velvet stage of antler growth in all parts of Texas so your buck could have potentially also died from EHD and NOT a result of his bloody velvet stripping.

    So without knowing exactly when the deer died or finding his carcass immediately thereafter, we will never know.

    Because the antlers are still growing while in the soft velvet stage, any disruption will make them appear old. If the antlers are not solid when he dies, the soft antler tissue may appear “pitted” and rough, not smooth and hard like on a hard antlered buck. So your buck clearly died before hard antlers were formed under the velvet and he likely died in the late July or August timeframe as antlers continued to grow. This fact makes me lean more towards the EHD cause of death than anything else.

    Great questions!!!




    Thanks Macy for the detailed comments. I realize how busy you are this time of the year and realize how special it is to get your feedback. I really hope that your new website gets up and running and that you can attract the great following that you had at WD. I learned so much from you and those great wildlife managers that were consistently posting there.


    Macy Ledbetter

    Thank you Paul, greatly appreciated. I am doing this out of a labor of love. I am blessed and I want to help in every way. Please help spread the word to help this site gain traction. WD was a wonderful project and I poured my heart and soul into it. In the end it was health issues of my business partner and friend that made us stop the site. I am trying to do it again now with myself and my beautiful bride.
    I want to help and I enjoy it so help me spread the word and let’s make this an equally great site too.

    PS: During the first week of November, the local newspaper, the San Saba News and Star, will be publishing their annual Hunters Guide. I typically contribute heavily to that project so call their office or stop by and pick up a copy once it hits the newsstands. Llano, Mason and Menard counties typically run a few articles of mine in their additions as well so keep your eyes peeled!

    Thanks man,


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