By Natalie Covher
The upcoming full moon Tuesday, July 19 is known as the Full Buck Moon, since July is associated with buck deer growing new antlers. An alternate name for this Moon is the Full Thunder Moon, since thunderstorms are common this month. Another moniker for July’s Moon is the Full Hay Moon. The Farmer’s Almanac says the best time to cut hay is between July 24-26.
Many will find it interesting to learn that male deer lose and re-grow their antlers every year. Bucks shed their antlers between January and April. It can take two-three weeks to lose them completely and then a whole summer for them to grow back. While growing, they are covered in a soft hairy skin called velvet that supplies blood to the growing antlers. When the antlers have grown in, the velvet dies and the bucks rub it off on trees and brush.
Nelson Ball is an avid hunter and member of the Palmyra Hunting and Fishing Club. The club is 100 years old and members hunt on a 27,000-acre island in the middle of the Mississippi River. “The deer are about halfway done growing their antlers,” said Ball.“The cycle of antler growth effects some hunters but not others. I’d say the impact is as varied as the number of hunters. Some are just out there to make a kill and get meat. Some hunters may not operate according to regulation. On the other end, you have the very conservative hunter who may hunt mostly from camera. You have hunters that have hunted their whole lives. Antlers can be very important to this type of hunter; I know they are to me. They are beautiful and it can be nice to have nice pair on the wall. To me hunting is kind of like a sacrament, it means a lot to me. I’m taking a life so I can live and feed my family. It can be very spiritual.”
Whitetail deer antlers are one of the fastest growing tissues known to man and can grow as fast as ½ inch per day. As a deer matures each year it will regrow antlers with more points, eventually max out, and then loose points as the deer ages. When a deer is injured or has poor nutrition its antlers will regrow with less or non-typical points.
“Deer are in their prime at around six years of age,” said Ball. “Sometimes, when they get old, their antlers get weird. You can’t know for sure how old a deer is by the size of its antlers. The best way to field judge a deer is by his body. I’d say one year of a deer’s life is equal to ten years of a human life. Once you understand what a 4 or 5-year-old deer looks like you can begin to tell the difference between a young and old deer. The difference between a three and a six-year-old deer is similar to the difference between a 30 and 60-year-old human.”