The First Stage of the Rut

Velvet Shed: The First True Stage of the Rut. While the process of shedding is short-lived—it takes only a day or two for most bucks, and some will have clean antlers within a matter of hours—the event signifies a whole new phase for whitetails. Here are three key things that happen when bucks reach hard antler, and how to deal with them. Testosterone Dump Peak breeding may seem like a dot on the horizon, but velvet shed is actually the first stage of the rut. As soon as antlers harden, testosterone levels start building, and bucks start ritual behaviors associated with the rut. Even the biggest bucks will make early rubs on small saplings. Your move: Scout the edges of hot food sources for the season’s first rubs and scrapes, and set up stands near the freshest sign. I like short, light rattling sessions that mimic the sparring matches that are going on now. Bachelor groups in the double digits can occur, all living as a mostly harmonious unit. This is especially true of older bucks, which often shift their core area and turn into sulking loners.
Whitetail Deer Red Velvet Shedding
Red Velvet: Consider velvet shed to be the very first stage of the rut.

The rut gets all the ink for craziness, but shedding velvet comes in a close second in terms of shaking up a buck’s world. While the process of shedding is short-lived—it takes only a day or two for most bucks, and some will have clean antlers within a matter of hours—the event signifies a whole new phase for whitetails. Here are three key things that happen when bucks reach hard antler, and how to deal with them.

1. Testosterone Dump

Peak breeding may seem like a dot on the horizon, but velvet shed is actually the first stage of the rut. As soon as antlers harden, testosterone levels start building, and bucks start ritual behaviors associated with the rut.

What changes: Bucks are highly protective of their antlers in velvet, but they start rubbing once the fuzzy stuff is gone. Research proves that mature bucks are the first to begin making rubs each fall, but don’t expect to find the kind of gargantuan rakings on thigh-thick trees you’ll see a month from now. Even the biggest bucks will make early rubs on small saplings. The season’s first tentative scrapes will also appear.

Your move: Scout the edges of hot food sources for the season’s…

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