During my recent Montana visit, while visiting the National Bison Range, I came upon 7 Mule Deer bucks, all in velvet:
These photos were taken at mid-day, when the deer were grazing in a wildflower-filled prairie. The harsh sun at this time of day is not the optimum time for photographing, but seeing antlered animals with velvet covering the antlers is always a joy.
While an antler is growing, it is covered with highly vascular skin called velvet, which supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone. Once the antler has achieved its full size (for that growing season), the velvet is lost and the antler’s bone dies. This dead bone structure is the mature antler. Antlers function as weapons in combats between males, which sometimes cause serious wounds, and as dominance and sexual displays.