While velvet bucks are undeniably cool, the sight of the first hard antler on whitetails means the fall hunting season is almost here, and I’ll be in a stand very soon! The bachelor group pictured above hangs out on one of the farms I hunt, and if you look closely, the pretty 8-point on the left side of the frame has shed his velvet. This is the first hard-antler buck my cameras have captured this year. I have a photo of this same buck only three days prior, and he was still wearing velvet.
Things are going to start getting interesting in this bachelor group, I suspect. Bucks have a pecking order while they’re in velvet, but it’s largely decided and enforced by body language, pushing, shoving, and kicking. Antlers aren’t part of the equation, other than for showing off. But once that velvet drops, the playground bullies will start re-negotiating. I wonder if the “Hard Horn 8” (yes, Hurteau, I named him, get over it) will take advantage of his early opportunity to use his tines?
There are no whopper bucks in this photo, but it’s one of my favorite of the summer. Partly because I know this little bachelor group won’t be together much longer and this may be my last picture of them.