November 14, 2008

My Deer (the Buck) Stops Here

As if eating our prized perennials isn't enough, we have to protect our trees from deer antler rubbing this time of year.

In the fall, the "velvet" fuzz that began with spring growth, starts shedding on the antlers of a buck deer. They rub their antlers on trees and the males will engage each other in sparring during the breeding season. I don't think the buck deer are fighting each other on our property. I've seen a group of four running together. I've also seen two with larger antlers than the buck in my photo. I've seen a buck with one antler, too. In other words, I think we have at least eight buck deer roaming our property.

After breeding season ends, the buck deer drop their antlers. The antlers start growing again in the spring. You might be able to walk in the woods in early winter and find the dropped antlers, if they have not already been eaten by small animals who want the calcium.

The number of points on the antlers has nothing to do with the age of the buck. A young deer, with a good food supply (not from my garden) in the winter, can grow a six or eight point rack. To determine the age of a buck, you'd have to check his teeth. I don't think I'll get that close.

Last fall, we had to prune up the lower limbs on the magnolia. The deer had broken off branches from rubbing, so we did our best to repair the damage. They began rubbing against the exposed trunk a few weeks ago. We encircled the magnolia with a wire fence after we saw the damage. Yesterday, we discovered that the buck deer had also been rubbing antlers on the trunk of the deodar cedar.

The damage was rather bad this year because we didn't fence off the trees in time. We should have protected the tree trunks by the last day of October. If you see any deer on your property, it's a good idea to be proactive and protect the trees before this kind of damage is done to your trees or shrubs.

Story and photos by Freda Cameron

Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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