It’s a Wonder Anything is Left of Whitetails by the Time Hunting Begins

Right now hordes of flying insects are hounding whitetails for blood 24/7. Crawly things too, especially ticks. Even while brisk winds, rain or cool nighttime temperatures provide some relief, these deer find little comfort because bot fly larva, which cannot be dislodged by frequent sneezing or rubbing of noses with hind hooves until they are bloody, are crawling around in their sinuses and nasal passages, dining on tender tissues. If during a rush to escape flying tormentors a buck accidently injures the sensitive velvet enveloping its growing antlers on a tree branch, various meat-eating wasps such as yellow jackets join the chase, determined to carve off chunks of exposed velvet flesh for hungry larvae waiting in hanging paper nests.

Shorty before the end of August when antlers are finally fully developed, blood flow to velvet shuts down and these yet sensitive tissues begin to rot and smell, attracting a new wave of vicious flies and wasps. Typically sometime while attempting to rest, a buck won’t be able to stand it any longer. Upon leaping from its bed, it will rush to a nearby small-diameter tree trunk or woody shrub to rub off on it as much of its deteriorating velvet as quickly as possible, followed by some vigorous side-to-side thrashing of its antlers through deep grasses or leaf-covered branches in an effort to wipe off remaining tatters of velvet and blood. Generally, however, it will take 2–3 days of repeated rubbing and thrashing before the buck will finally find some relief.

Note: while driving during thunderstorms in deer country, keep an eye out for crossing fawns, many of which run without caution in such weather because they are still terrified by thunder. Two were killed near my home while trying to get past a concrete median barrier during our last storm.


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