Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The same thing that happened last year

with 29 comments

Deer Antler 2315

After I photographed frostweed ice on the morning of December 11th, the weather forecast called for another night with near-freezing temperatures in Austin. Sure enough, the next morning I found that more frostweed stalks in Great Hills Park had done their ice trick, so once again I took lots of pictures. What else is new?

After a good two hours, much of it spent hunched over or lying on the ground (because frostweed ice forms at the base of the plant’s stalk) I was ready to straighten up and head for home when the same thing happened that had happened to me after I took frostweed ice pictures in that very location last year: I discovered a discarded deer’s antler that was barely visible in the undergrowth. This new one was the largest I’ve found, with a curving distance of 15 inches from base to farthest tip.

In 2011 I highlighted the part of the antler that had been attached to the deer’s head, so with this latest antler I’ve given you a different view. Don’t you love the bumpy texture, and don’t you wonder, like me, whether the bumps serve some purpose?

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

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Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 15, 2012 at 6:17 AM

29 Responses

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  1. You do a great job of finding beauty everywhere. That picture really shows the details wonderfully.

    dogear6

    December 15, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    • And yet for each thing I find, I can’t help wondering how many more I’ve missed. So much seems to be mere luck. If I’d looked at the ground even slightly differently I might not have seen the exposed parts of this antler at all.

      As for the details in the picture, I used flash so I’d have enough extra light to stop my macro lens down to its minimum aperture of f/32 and get as much in focus as possible.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2012 at 10:05 AM

      • I agree with you as to wondering how much I miss. At the same time, I know that consistency in showing up makes a big difference in seeing the natural world.

        Thanks for sharing how you took the photo. Now that I’ve conquered raw, reds and night photography, the flash is next.

        dogear6

        December 15, 2012 at 10:17 AM

        • I keep putting myself out there with the intention of maximizing my chances of noticing something compelling.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 15, 2012 at 3:10 PM

  2. Our summer cottage is located in open mixed forest. There’s a deer trail nearby and we see antlers dropped in almost the same spot every year. Sounds like you’ve stumbled upon one as well. Look for a narrow beaten path in the undergrowth and follow it. The trail will lead you to some incredible views. Here’s a link to my post about the deer, including a shot from my son’s phone. http://wp.me/p1tnDE-n2

    Joan Leacott

    December 15, 2012 at 10:43 AM

    • The place where I found a deer antler two years in a row is adjacent to a creek and a cliff, so it is a scenic area, as you predicted. From what you’ve written and the link you provided, It sounds as if your mixed forest is much larger than my area, which wouldn’t be surprising, given that I’m in a city. It’s great that you have opportunities to see so many things, like that deer close to your house.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      • Steve, there’s miles and miles of forest around me. It’s all second-growth with the huge pines all logged out in the 1890’s. The few that got missed are all about 2 feet in diameter. And miles of water in front of me. I can’t see the far shore of the bay because of the curvature of the earth. If you want to escape the heat this summer, come to Georgian Bay.

        Joan Leacott

        December 15, 2012 at 3:38 PM

  3. That is so funny! My dog chews on deer antlers, I haven’t wondered about the bumps. Maybe it’s because they grow slowly? Or because they look more like trees? that’s probably not it :) They are super cool though!

    Jennifer Stuart

    December 15, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    • The bumpiness seems to be mostly on the end that’s near the head, so maybe it starts there and spreads outward. Intriguing, whatever the explanation.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2012 at 4:22 PM

  4. Wow, I’ll never seen deer antlers, it’s beautiful! Thanks for sharing Steve

    chatou11

    December 15, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    • You have deer in France (I assume), so there’s still a chance for you to see some antlers for real. In the meantime, I’m glad to have provided a close picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2012 at 4:25 PM

  5. I think the bumps are to create “scrapes” in tree bark during the rut to announce their presence in the area. It pays to advertise.

    DougPete

    December 15, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    • That sounds plausible. Thanks for the suggestion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2012 at 6:22 PM

      • Interesting what DougPete has written. I, too thought about the way the bucks rub against trees, though I hadn’t got as far as thinking what the purpose might be.

        Susan Scheid

        December 15, 2012 at 9:45 PM

        • After your two comments, I spent a little while searching the Internet but I didn’t find any statement about the bumps on the antlers. The type of deer we have in Austin are white-tailed deer, but I don’t even know if other species also have bumps on their antlers.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 16, 2012 at 6:16 AM

  6. Je rêve depuis bien longtemps qu’une telle chose m’arrive avec mes chevreuils ! belle journée -pour les images sur mon blog je ne pense pas pouvoir les mettre en plus grande, belle journée

    naturesereine

    December 16, 2012 at 2:05 AM

  7. Le genre de bois que j’aime ramasser quand j’ai la chance d’en trouver, ce qui arrive rarement. Bonne fin de journée.
    val

    lancoliebleue

    December 16, 2012 at 10:47 AM

  8. I got really curious about the appearance of those antlers, too, and spent way too much time trying to figure it out. I may have found a little hint here. There’s a section on antler calcification that begins at the bottom of p.54. They form differently than I’d assume, and the “roughness” at the bottom of the antler may be vestiges of cartilage that’s been calcified. The paragraph on bone growth from cartilage on p.55 seems relevant.

    I think I’ll send a link to a couple of hunters I know, too. It’s just one of those curiosities I’ve never noticed.

    shoreacres

    December 16, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    • Thanks for the fruits of your research. I read the pages you singled out, and your speculation about calcified vestiges of cartilage certainly seems plausible. If the university weren’t out of session now I might try to ask a zoology professor. If you learn anything from the hunters you mentioned, please let us know.

      One thing I observed that might provide a clue for someone who knows about bone growth is that the bumps fade out toward the distal end of the antlers. I wonder whether the bumps would have extended further if the antlers had grown larger.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 16, 2012 at 6:31 PM

  9. [...] you saw a picture of the frostweed ice I spent a couple of hours photographing on December 11. In a later post that showed a deer’s antler I mentioned a repeat performance of the ice on the morning of December 12. On those days the [...]

  10. [...] previous post about daisy reminds me a second time of my other blog, where I recently showed a photograph of a deer’s antler that I’d found in a park in my neighborhood. By coincidence, the word antler has an [...]

  11. Wow! I don’t see dropped antlers very often around here, even though this area is over-saturated with whitetails (so I’ve been told, anyway). Last time I saw a single antler was near a hedgerow in a fallow soybean field, probably March or so. Next time I went back it was gone, the bugs and rodents must have eaten it! If I had been wise I would have taken some closeup pix of it. Next time I see one, I will! ;)

    wildwanderingirl

    January 14, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    • We have plenty of wild wandering whitetail deer in this part of Austin, and they’re a common site in the neighborhood, including any yards that aren’t fenced. For whatever reason, most of the deer I see here are female (maybe the males keep harems). In spite of the large numbers, though, I’ve found an antler only four times in the last six or so years. Each time I’ve brought it home with me: finders keepers, and all that. Good luck finding your next one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2013 at 2:47 PM

  12. […] one or several deer on the front lawn. Two autumns in a row you’ve seen abstract pictures of the fallen antler of a male white-tailed deer here, but this is the first photograph of a whole deer, and presumably a female. To learn more […]


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