With having found the full rack of the second largest buck in our deer herd from 2016 (see my essay “Antler Antics”) I was really excited to see what 2017 would bring to me! The Spring started with six does roaming the area. Within a few weeks we started to see some fawns as well.
Within a month or so we could count three new youngsters along with the adult females. That would seem to be deemed good recruitment for the herd we have now.
With Summer arriving we were starting to see some of the males in the herd. The bucks and does form separate herds except for rutting season. One of the first bucks to show up was the big one from last year. And he was bigger and badder than last year! 2016 ended with me naming him Big Boy.
Before we start comparing the bucks, I want to go over some of the terms for the points, called tines, on a deer antler. First, there is the “main beam”. This is the part of the antler from the skull to the tips that continue outward in front of the deer. This is the longest part of the antler. The other points that come off the main beam upwards are called G1, G2 and so on. The G1 is the first and usually the biggest of the G series points. Sometimes the G’s have points develop on them and these points are called “kickers”. There are also two little points that come out forward, a few inches up from the base of the antler, and these are “eye guards”. To qualify as a point, and therefore countable as such, the point has to be at least an inch long. The last aspect of antler anatomy is called the “coronet” and it is the little circle of bumps and indentations around the base of the antler. These are much like a fingerprint and can link all the antlers a deer sheds as belonging to it. In the above photo of 2016, Big Boy has 3 points on his right antler and on his left antler his G2 is very small. It might not qualify as a point, regardless, it is very small. You can also see a notch in his right ear. Also note that on the right antler his G2 and main beam tip are very claw like, almost like a crab.
Here’s Big Boy in 2017 and he shows the same notch in the ear and claw like G2 on his right antler. This year his G2 on his left antler has lengthened considerably and he has kickers developing on both G1s. Notice how the tips of his G1s are misshaped just below the points. That’s kickers forming and once they reach an inch long they will be another point on his rack. Upon mating bucks will pass their genes to their offspring and this includes genes for the formation of their antlers. This will become more clear as I explain more about the bucks later.
I will start with the smallest 2 pointer that we had show up. It was a small buck and had his eye guards, which fork horns, also with 2 points, lack.
The thing about this buck is, notice the kickers on his G1s. He seems a little young to have kickers. However, that growth is caused mostly from the genes and a little from food resources. I have the feeling that he is a son of Big Boy. Can’t prove it though, for obvious reasons.
The next 2 pointer to show I believe is the 2 pointer whose antlers I gathered last year. It has the same proportions and shape as the antlers I possess. Only much larger this year.
Isn’t he a handsome boy? I never did give him a name and haven’t had any inspiration for one so he remains nameless. Please note that this buck has no indication of kickers. Just a nice smooth taper out to the tips. Keep that in mind.
This next buck has 3 points on his left antler and 2 on his right. Again, there is a nice taper to it’s points.
The last buck of 2 points or better was also a 3-2, however his 3 was on his right antler not the left. He also had a deformed G1 on his right antler.
Notice that the G2 0n his right makes that same kind of claw shape as Big Boy’s does. The left antler also has a G2 forming on it. The tip of the G1 on it’s left antler seems thick right at the end. It reminds me a whole lot of Big Boy. What do you think? What happened to it’s Gi on his right antler probably occurred when his antlers were growing and covered in velvet. It could have been caused by injury or infection or maybe genetic, who knows.
With only having two bucks in the 2+ Club last year, the five of this year astounds me! Add the six does, the three fawns and a fork horn to them and there was a total of fifteen deer in the herd we watched over the course of the year. They start showing up a lot towards the end of Summer for the acorns from the oaks, called mast. They are a primary source of protein for the herd at this time of year.
Another thing that brings the heard together in the fall is breeding season. The rut, as it is called, is the one time of the year that you can see lots of males with the females and they are very focoussed the females. It is quite interesting watching the males bothering the females who are actively in estrous. The males will bother them so much that they have a hard time getting space and time to eat the acorns.
The above buck is the one with the injured G1 on his right antler. In the photo below he is fleming, which is a rolling up of the upper lip so that he can “taste” the hormones from a female in estrous.
As the year winds down my thoughts turn to the first of the year for 2018. The bucks will be shedding their antlers, called castings, in January. Last year I had incredible luck in finding some sheds and this year the herd has more than doubled! I was looking forward with great anticipation as to what I might find this time.
Well, come December, nature played a dirty trick on me, the Thomas Fire! When it ended it was the largest forest fire California had ever had. Although now it is #2. Ojai was completely surrounded by fire. It was like two burning jaws on both sides of the Ojai Valley closing around us. I have seen many fires here and this was a whopper!
The fire on the south side of the Valley burned across Black Mountain and down to the edge of the city at Lion Canyon Ranch. That is where I believe most of the deer that we see hang out. It was a very destructive event to say the least. The fire was very disruptive to the herds normal habits. As 2018 started we were not seeing any deer. Part of the reason for not seeing the deer, besides the disturbance of the fire, is that within two weeks of a fire the chaparral is sprouting up new growth from their roots. This is great food for deer. You see, deer are browsers not grazers. They like leaves, soft, tender, young leaves and that is what they now had all around them. With the new food sources available they did not have to roam much and we saw very few deer in the first half of the year. I also found no antlers whatsoever! What a major disappointment that was! I was drooling on the bit waiting for the first of the year and my search for more antlers. Oh well, I can rejoice in the fact that the herd provided me with so much enjoyment during that year, it was incredible! The only constant in life is change and in time the deer will be around again for me to enjoy. There will not be an article on the herd for 2018 because they still haven’t returned in any numbers as I write this essay. That is OK though. I know that they will return sooner or later and I am a patient man. The herd prospered and grew and for that I am most thankful!
Your’s in Nature,