Deer bones and antler sheds not so easy to find on ranches

Lone Star Outdoor News

By Darlene McCormick Sanchez

With the multitude of deer, hogs, and other game in Texas, hunters may wonder why they rarely see bones.

Chris Huey, a biologist and longtime ranch manager at the 90,000-acre Chaparrosa Ranch, said it’s simply because deer don’t normally die out in the open. When wounded or sick, deer go to cover or water.

“I hardly ever see dead carcasses in the air,” said Huey, who is often surveying the deer.

It’s not common to see antler sheds either, he said. There are 3500 deer on the Chaparrosa, with about half being bucks, so that’s potentially 1,500 shed antlers that are out there. But Huey said he’s lucky to find half a dozen.

Finding a deer carcass is even more rare, he said. Coyotes and rodents are attracted to the bones.

Another reason they aren’t found is because ranches are big places and walking up on a carcass might be like finding a needle in a haystack.

“They’re hard to see walking up on them. I very rarely find deer carcasses,” Huey said. “Even when it doesn’t rain for 2 years, you still don’t see them.”

Alan Cain, white-tailed deer program leader for TPWD, said a myriad of factors play out in bone decomposition.

The amount of sun, whether they are in brush, and exposure to elements make a difference. Rain, temperature and whether other animals chew or drag off the bones would also be a factor.

Dr. Melinda Merk, a forensic veterinarian, said the biggest factor would most likely be if other animals remove the body parts and bones.

Bones actually take a long time to breakdown, she said. The mass of the animal is a factor, too. Drying and time will make the bones more brittle.

“But as you know, skeletons can be recovered centuries later,” she said.