When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers And The Science Behind Why They Do It

Most people see a photo of a deer and they have a beautiful 8 point rack of solid antlers on top of their hand. A lot of those same people don’t realize that deer lose those antlers yearly and grow a new set.

In the article below, we’ll discuss why deer shed their antlers and how the process works.

When do deer shed their antlers?

Deer shed their antlers annually, typically in the late winter or early spring, however, some deer can shed as late as April. The exact timing of antler shedding varies depending on the species of deer, the age of the deer, and the climate in which the deer lives.

In most species of deer, antlers are shed and regrown each year in a process known as “casting”. This process begins when the antlers are no longer needed for mating season and a decrease in testosterone levels.

As the days become shorter and the temperatures drop, the deer’s body begins to produce a hormone called melatonin. This hormone signals the deer’s body to begin the process of shedding its antlers. The antlers are weakened by the deer’s body, which causes them to become loose and eventually fall off. This process usually takes several weeks, and the antlers may be shed in pieces or all at once.

What happens after the antlers fall off?

The antlers are then replaced by a new set of antlers that will grow throughout the summer and fall. This process begins with the growth of a “velvet”, which is a soft, fuzzy covering that protects the growing antlers. As the antlers grow, the velvet will eventually dry up and fall off, revealing the hard, bony antlers.

deer with velvet antlers
Photo of deer with velvet antlers

The timing of antler shedding varies depending on the species of deer or location. Whitetail deer and mule deer typically shed their antlers in late winter or early spring. However, in southern states like Texas, deer can shed their antlers much later between January and as late as April. Elk and moose shed their antlers in late winter between January and March.

deer antler cycle chart
Chart showing the different stages of deer antler growth

When do deer shed their antlers in Michigan?

In Michigan, deer shed their antlers between mid January and end of March. It’s best to look for sheds in the early spring in Michigan.

When do deer shed their antlers in Ohio?

Deer usually shed their antlers around December and January for bucks in Ohio. If you’re wanting to get some early shed hunting in, then you might have to bundle up in the cold.

When do deer shed their antlers in Tennessee & Kentucky?

In Southern states like Tennessee, deer can shed their antlers much later sometimes as late as April. Early spring is a good time to shed hunt in the states such as Tennessee and Kentucky.

How old are deer when they shed antlers?

The age of the deer also affects the timing of antler shedding. Yearling bucks (1.5 years old) tend to shed their antlers earlier than older deer. This is because younger deer have not yet reached their full size and strength, and their antlers are not as strong as those of older deer. A deer could shed their antlers early if it was in a fight with another buck as well and knocked it off prematurely.

Is it painful for deer to shed antlers?

When a deer sheds its antlers, it’s typically not painful, but it may cause some discomfort. It will definitely bleed and look painful, but it’s all natural and a normal growth process for the deer. If a deer is in a fight and the antlers are knocked off prematurely, then it could be painful for the deer.

Close up photo of deer shedding antlers with blood
Photo of deer shedding antler by Lance Krueger

Climate can affect deer antler shedding

Finally, the climate in which the deer lives can also affect the timing of antler shedding. In colder climates, deer tend to shed their antlers earlier than in warmer climates. This is because the cold temperatures signal the deer’s body to begin the process of shedding its antlers.

The process of antler shedding and regrowth is an important part of the deer’s life cycle. Antlers are used for protection, for fighting, and for attracting mates. By shedding and regrowing their antlers each year, deer are able to keep their antlers in top condition and ensure that they are able to compete for mates and protect themselves from predators.


  • Hey folks! I'm Trey Copeland, founder of Made To Hunt. I'm from Kentucky and love the outdoors. I've been hunting or fishing in many states including KY, MO, MS, AR, TN and FL as well as Mexico and Costa Rica. For more updates follow me on Twitter.

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    1. The shedding process takes about two weeks and then the antlers start to grow again in the summer time and into early Fall. If bowhunters are lucky in early September, they can harvest a velvet buck that has just regrown its new set of antlers.

  1. Me and my boys went shed hunting for the first time last year. Only found one pair. This year we found six!

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