Several years ago the city of Ojai had the culverts for San Antonio Creek, which runs under Grand Ave. and Ojai Ave, on it’s way south across the valley, changed from culverts to pilings, which are far more animal friendly. The result of that, as I stated in my essay “Predators and Prey”, was that the deer population grew.
As with the other animals around here, the deer pay us little attention. As a matter of fact, I wave to them. The reason I wave is because waving to them shows that I am not a predator trying to sneak up on them. I am showing myself and acknowledging their presence. They give me a bit of a stare and go on their way. Their way happens to be only fifty to seventy feet away from our house! That makes for some decent photos of the deer.
During late winter in 2016 I noticed that the bucks had started to regrow their antlers. Deer drop their antlers every year around the start of the year and pretty much start to regrow them right away. Other than for mating season the males form their own little herd.
We had a herd of five bucks. There was a three pointer, a two pointer, two fork horns and a spike horn. As the weeks wore on we watched the antlers emerge from their skulls. By mid summer the deer had shed their velvet. The three pointer turned out to be a nice looking buck.
It was at this time that I began thinking about the possibility of finding the antler castings. That is the technical name for the deer losing their antlers. In the vernacular they are called sheds or drops.
The two pointer was also a fine buck. We really enjoyed watching the herd stroll on by from time to time. The closer January came the more I thought about the antler sheds. Come late January in 2017 a group of three deer come sauntering through. It consisted of the two fork horns and another deer not showing antlers. Upon closer inspection the deer without the antlers turns out to be a buck!
I knew that it was not the three point buck because there is no notch in the right ear. That would leave it being the two pointer. That does it, now is the time. I have to go looking for the antlers that are being dropped. Because of the weather, it was a little over a week before we could get out to look. We decided to start looking by working the perimeter of the fence line around my neighbor’s yard to the south of us. Just beyond the west side of their property is a little barranca that the deer will use quite a bit. Deer have their own favorite trails and will pretty much keep to them. We walk west down the road to the barranca, which is about a hundred feet from our residence. I decide that I should first check out the fence line on the north side of the road before we do the southern part. Fence lines are good to check because the bucks will jump over the fence and when they land the shock of landing can sometimes cause the antlers to come off. The bucks shaking their heads can also snap them off, or even getting the antlers caught in some brush will do it. I turn and start towards where the barranca cuts under the fence on the north side of the road and immediately see an antler laying in the middle of the barranca! It has been like only a minute since we started looking! I pick up the antler and see that it is the left antler of the two point buck. Well, I’m thinking, that wasn’t so hard. My wife is in total shock! See cannot believe what she just witnessed. And, quite frankly, neither can I! We search our neighbors perimeter, both inside and out, only to find nothing else except a lot of deer trails. That is great though because that is where we will find the antlers, if we do find any more antlers. Heck, I’m going home happy, I just found my first antler shed!
I reckon that the parcel we have the access to look through is about ten or twelve acres. That is a lot of ground to cover so I decide to do it systematically in quadrants. A few days later we start in the southern part and work our way north through the property. We have spent a couple of days and a several hours of our time as we enter the last quadrant that we have to look through. We are walking through some thin patches of chaparral when I spy another antler on the ground. It looks big enough to be the match to the one I first found. The match has to also be a right antler. I go over and pick it up and yes it is a right antler, and yes, it matches the first one I found! Unbelievable, I found the two point buck’s set!
About a week later I look out of the kitchen to see the fork horn that I call Broke Tine jousting with a toyon shrub. He is doing that to get rid of his antlers. The big bucks have big antlers that have their weight to help them cast off. The fork horns don’t have that going for them. If you go back to the above photo of the two pointer which has dropped its antlers, the one on the left is Broke Tine. A tine is the name for any of the points of an antler and his left is broken. The other fork horn is in the middle of the photo. If you look closely his antlers are much taller than Broke Tine’s.
So with that I called him Longhorn. Alright, alright, that is a misnomer, it is an antler not a horn. But hey, I like the name. Also, the term fork horn is used for deer so why not? A week or so after seeing Broke Tine jousting with the shrub I am taking my good buddy Harvey on a tour of the area and the deer trails that I found. On our way back to the house from the northeast corner of the property I find Broke Tine’s broken left antler! It was only about twenty five feet away from where I found the second of the two point buck’s set!
The photo above shows the difference between a two pointer and a fork horn, which would seem to have two points also. What the fork horns are lacking are the eye guards by the base and some mass to the antlers. After a buck is born he grows spike horns his first year and is a fork horn for his second one. The two pointers, and up, start after that and the size of the antlers will depend on a few factors such as available food resources and health of the buck.
I had really hoped that I would find the three pointer’s set; however, I am more than happy with my bounty. I was nice to the deer and the deer returned the favor, how sweet!
Yours in Nature,