Whitetail deer roam the continent

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The whitetail deer is one of North America's largest animals. There are more than a dozen subspecies of whitetail deer. The largest occur in the northern U.S. into parts of Canada. These often reach weights of more than 300 pounds. The smallest is the Key deer, which lives only in the Florida Keys and generally does not reach 100 pounds.

A male whitetail is called a buck and can grow antlers. A female whitetail is called a doe and does not grow antlers. During springtime a buck's antlers begin to grow. During late summer or early autumn the antlers stop growing. Generally speaking, the older a buck is the larger his antlers will grow.

Each winter after autumn breeding season is over the buck's antlers will drop from his head. These dropped antlers are called shed antlers or sheds. Finding a shed antler does not indicate that a buck has died there.

I photographed this beautiful buck in Southeast Missouri two days before the opening day of November whitetail deer firearms season, which runs through Tuesday. This buck appears to have nine antler points and is most likely 4 1/2 years old. He looks to be in good health and might weigh between 175 and 200 pounds as he stands. This deer should be left to grow another two years to become a real trophy-size deer.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by Aaron at The Painted Wren Gallery.

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