It's that time of year again for our white-tailed deer. The bucks are starting to shed their antlers and they are available for mice to chew on, for dogs to play with, and for some of us to collect.
In late October, most of November, and early December the deer here are in rut. This means that they capable of mating with females. Antlers are used to display dominance and to fight off other bucks that may provide competition to the mating "rights" of a group of does.
The rut ends before the New Year starts and the antlers become less of a necessity for bucks. Since they take extra energy to grow and walk around with, deer shed or drop their antlers to save energy and because they really aren't needed any more.
New antlers begin to grow and the process is repeated, year after year.
It's legal in Virginia to collect them and possess them (as long as you have landowner permission to do so), so I always like to find a few to collect. Maybe I'll even make some new knife handles again this year
There is an importance to leave some for the animals though. Mice, squirrels, and other rodents chew on antlers to sharpen their teeth and to gain important vitamins and minerals that can become extremely scarce in the winter from their regular food sources.