Cochise County: Mule Deer Buck, Odocoileus hemionus, Retains Antlers in April

Last year’s antler’s retained in this year’s April? I was surprised, but the mule deer buck, Odocoileus hemionus, photographed near Palominas Road in southern Cochise County, Arizona, was definitely sporting a full and well seasoned rack. I had to check the date: April 12, 2016.

Perhaps it happens all the time down here. What do I know? Where I grew up in western Montana, the usual antler drop for both deer and elk occurred in or around February of each year. Winters are certainly much milder here. Could it be possible that this fellow had simply been able to keep his testosterone levels elevated throughout the entire winter and into balmy spring weather?

Got me. You be the judge. Or at least feel free to comment.

The antlered phenomenon wasn’t traveling alone; he had a doe with him and a yearling following the pair. It was the youngster who first got my attention, primarily because she was still in the roadway when I came along. Slowing the GMC pickup truck wasn’t enough; I had to come to a full stop to let her finally quit dithering and ease on over to the barbed wire fence. When she did finally work up the nerve to jump, she cleared the top wire as easy as pie, but the strands definitely worried her–and with good reason.

Getting the photos on this page was also an iffy proposition. There was a dump truck approaching from the rear and a car heading down Palominas from the other direction, which meant I’d be asking for irritated drivers if I waited too long before pulling out. Additionally, there was not enough time to switch from sunglasses to reading glasses, so the LCD display on the camera was a matter of blurry guesswork. I had to try, though. We’ve lived in this area for seven years now, and I’ve only managed one set of deer photos that were worth publishing. In the end, although the yearling did not get recorded and the doe is only dimly visible, the pictures of the buck with the rack came out just fine. I was even able to head on down the road the moment the little one cleared the fence, holding up neither of the other drivers.

Mule deer buck near Palominas Road in southern Cochise, County, Arizona.  Photo taken on April 12, 2016.

Mule deer buck near Palominas Road in southern Cochise, County, Arizona. Photo taken on April 12, 2016.

Only the doe's head is visible as she stays close by the much larger buck.

Only the doe’s head is visible as she stays close by the much larger buck.

Moving on.  Despite my truck being stopped a mere dozen yards away, these two held position until the yearling cleared the fence to join them.

Moving on. Despite my truck being stopped a mere dozen yards away, these two held position until the yearling cleared the fence to join them.

There’s a reason I carry the Canon PowerShot on my belt during the day: It’s impossible to tell in advance when a wildlife photo opportunity will present itself. This time, I certainly hadn’t been thinking about photogenic critters. Our friend Becky had called to ask if I could stop by; her van needed a jump start. I’d set the cell phone back on the little table, climbed out of the bathtub full of toasty warm water in which I’d intended to soak for an hour, put on my clothes, told Pam where I was going, and headed out. Nothing about that struck me as ideal timing–except for the fact that I was wide awake, which is not always the case before noon–but if I’d reached that stretch of road a minute sooner or a minute later, the photos would never have been taken. There is no such thing as an accident.

Until April 12, I’d have sworn there was no such thing as a mule deer buck sporting a full rack of last year’s antlers, either.

4 thoughts on “Cochise County: Mule Deer Buck, Odocoileus hemionus, Retains Antlers in April

  1. I am truly sorry I interrupted your soak. I would not have done that if there was not good reason. Katy does not need to have surgery though, which is a relief to both of us. And Rodger fixed the problem with the battery. It is newer than I thought, only 1 1/2 years old. It had slid forward and was shorting out. There is about 6 inches in front of the posts now and he tightened the strap down to keep it from sliding forward. He will be checking that for me regularly to make sure it does not strand me somewhere.
    I did not know what time of year bucks lost their antlers, so you were one up on me. Beautiful photos of this pair. I love to see the wildlife around here. People think desert and all they can think is coyotes. They have no idea how diverse the wildlife is here. Educating the public on the desert is wonderful. I had a herd of about 6 wait on the side of the road for me to pass them one night. The moment I went past, they crossed. One of the does was traffic wise.

  2. No sweat on the soak interruption, Becky. Wouldn’t have caught those deer on camera at all if you hadn’t called when you did. Also, we’re very glad to hear that Katy does not need surgery (whew!) and also that Rodger squared the battery away.

    It was quite educational for me when we first planted our tails here in 2009. Pam knew, of course, having lived in the area for many prior years, but I had no idea how abundant the wildlife was. Not that I thought of “only coyotes”, but the sheer number of species was a pleasant surprise. Not counting the pestiferous types, of course. 🙂 Over the years, from here to Montana and back, I’ve seen a lot of deer who were as traffic wise as your doe…and a few who certainly weren’t.

  3. I didn’t know that it’s unusual for bucks to be sporting antlers this time of year. But you do and despite the fact that you couldn’t see the camera’s screen, you’ve treated my eyes to a beautiful sight.

    Glad you were able to come to Becky’s rescue. What a guy!

  4. Well, I only know it’s unusual for the antlers to be there in April in Montana. Arizona may well go by different rules. But on the ranch where I grew up, I once counted 256 deer on the steep slopes north and northeast of our ranch house, so there were a lot of deer in the area, and it was kind of hard not to notice their habits and lifestyles, at least a little bit.

    Glad you enjoyed the photos. I did feel pretty blessed to get them.

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