Photographing Bucks Sparring in Velvet Antlers

I was surprised to be able to photograph two Whitetail Bucks in velvet sparring yesterday (August 07, 2021). This was at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.

Whitetail Bucks In Velvet Sparring
Whitetail Bucks In Velvet Sparring

I was driving the auto tour road when I spotted two bucks, some does and a couple of fawns. The deer were feeding on soybeans in a field near the Reeve’s Boat Ramp. I pulled over to start photographing them from inside my pickup truck (I had my camera resting on a bean bag draped over the open window of my pickup) when the two Bucks began doing some light sparring with their velvet covered antlers. This was very surprising!

Bucks appear to know that they are carrying something important on their heads, and they proceed with caution throughout the antler development process. Bruises, cuts, and tears to the velvet can all affect the antler production process.

By now (August), most bucks’ antler growth will be complete, and blood supply to the antlers will be decreasing. The antlers will harden now. Because the velvet covering the antlers decreases as blood flow stops, the overall size of the antlers appears to shrink.

Most bucks will remove the velvet from their antlers between late August and mid-September. Here in my area, it is in September. I feel lucky to have captured this rare sight of bucks sparring while still in velvet. It just goes to show you never know what you’ll see when out in nature with a camera!

I did some research in reference to the question “Do Whitetail Bucks spar with each other before shedding their velvet?

Before shedding their velvet, whitetail bucks do engage in sparring with each other. While their antlers are still covered in velvet, bucks may engage in playful wrestling matches to establish a pecking order and determine dominance. However, during this stage, their antlers are tender and soft, and they have low levels of testosterone, so the sparring is not as intense as it will be after the velvet sheds. The sparring behavior becomes more serious and aggressive once the velvet is shed. It is important to note that the shedding of velvet typically occurs in late August to early September.


Gear Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS R5
  • Lens: Canon EF 800 mm f/11


  • Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
  • Date and Time Taken: August 07, 2021 (6:48 A.M.)
  • Program Mode: Manual
  • Aperture: f11 (Fixed)
  • Shutter speed: 1/800
  • ISO: 25600 (Auto)
  • Exposure Compensation: 0
  • Focal Length: 800 mm

Related Posts:

Buck And Doe Grooming Each Other

Whitetail Buck With Third Antler Beam