As fall unfolds and the breeding season approaches for White-tailed Deer, testosterone increases in bucks, triggering the drying and shedding of velvet from their antlers. Bucks rub their antlers against shrubs and trees in order to remove the dried velvet, a process which is normally completed within 24 hours. Generally small-trunked, smooth-barked trees and shrubs ½ to 4 inches in diameter and without lower branches are preferred (Staghorn Sumac is often chosen, as depicted). Research shows on healthy habitat, rub densities can vary from a few hundred to nearly 4,000 rubs per square mile.
Rubs are far more than just a velvet-removal site, however. They serve as billboards posted for deer of both genders. Through specialized forehead skin glands, a buck deposits pheromones that convey social status, suppress the sex drives of younger bucks and stimulate does. Aggressive rubbing as well as increased testosterone strengthen neck and shoulder muscles, equipping them for battle with another buck should it vie for the same doe.
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