Its early but already I am starting to see large numbers of deer.

Does, fawns and bucks in velvet magically have appeared here in the yard. Deer this time of year seem plentiful. For some reason in late summer and early fall, we see a lot of deer. Then on the first day of deer season – boom – they disappear.

But now is the time that deer are interesting. Some bucks are starting to get to full racks and it’s time to start watching. The velvet on these bucks is just blood vessels. In most animals, the nourishment is coming to the bones from inside. But in the deer family, these bones are nourished from the outside. It is always interesting to me that they shed every year and the rate of growth in antlers is remarkable. They will shed in January. Shedding and regrowing is all controlled by the daylight hours entering the eye. This activates a gland that causes the cycle.

The fact the velvet is still present makes that bucks’ rack appear bigger than it really is. A myth about bucks is that they will rub the velvet off. Usually, the velvet will slough off on its own. This rubbing on trees is to increase neck strength to show off his masculinity to other bucks and more importantly to females. This is their strengthening training, which is why usually the bigger the tree the bigger the buck.

The other myth along these lines is that bucks will compete for does within a family group. The young immature bucks still in the family group will tussle and play around and sometimes the big buck gets involved just in showing off. The fighting is really when an outside buck appears. This is the serious fighting; the other is just playing around.

The doe watches with interest, these serious battles. Of course, there are occasions where the largest buck in the neighborhood doesn’t have the best rack. After a time, old age causes some deterioration of the rack. Normally in the summer with their red coat on, they don’t move as much because of the heat. This double coat and the food available usually prevent a lot of daytime movement in hot

They just don’t need to move about much, which is why we all put out our trail cameras. Mine usually hangs on the Bartlett Pear tree, where I get great views of the deer in the yard at night. In our yard, we have quite a few fawns that look very healthy as they munch down the garden and the flowers. The rain has created a deer paradise for feasting on all the lush greenery. They will put on a layer of fat before winter. Acorns or mast are probably the best food source for them as they are rich in nutrients. Twigs, new growth on trees, apples, corn, pears and hedge apples after a frost, are preferred. Deer that calmly roam through the city of Washington will munch on about anything in your yard once the same as in the country. Gardeners know they love hostas and will eat flowers and beans by easily jumping in and out of fences.

Sitting and watching deer is the best way to learn about their habits. This also tells you what is available in your area. You can learn so much about them by observing them. Observing them in snow by tracking is the purest form of hunting. You learn things like the front hooves are a different size than the back.

But in the summer, I like to sit back and watch or put out trail cameras and see what’s out after dark. In Pennsylvania, whitetail deer hunting is what pays the game commission bills. It is by far the most popular hunting of all the rest. For some people like me it is a passion.

Congratulations Glenn, you finally made it. The Glenn I am referring to is Glenn the manager of Ace Sporting Goods in Washington. I’ve known Glenn for 30 years. At one time, he was a sales rep for wholesales sporting goods equipment at Matthews and Boucher. I must say one thing about Glenn. He was always a good salesperson, knowing what sold and what didn’t. He would get us things that sold when I worked in the Gun Runner. I never worried he would try to pawn off anything that wouldn’t sell. He wasn’t that type of person. I’m sure Ace and the customers like me are going to miss you. Have a great retirement.

George Block writes a weekly Outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter

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