This guy is big! The biggest one I think I have seen near my backyard, anyway. He calmly strolled onto the neighbor’s lawn about 20 feet from their house, and plopped himself down on the lawn for a morning rest.
Not only are there multiple tines in his rack, but some are quite broad, meaning this guy took in a good measure of protein and minerals (e.g., calcium) in his summer diet while those antlers were developing. Maybe he discovered a nice vegetable plot with peas and beans, or a stash of acorns.
Males need a high protein (as much as 16% protein in younger animals), mineral-rich diet not just to grow antlers but to develop the protein and fat stores that will carry them through the energy-intensive rut season and the remainder of the winter. How much leafy green stuff would they have to chow down each day to take in that much protein?
That’s a trick question, because the protein they absorb doesn’t come directly from their food, but from the microbial fermentation products, and from digesting the microbes themselves, that deer and other ruminant herbivores raise in their complex, four-compartment stomachs. So, the better they feed their microbial friends, the more nutrients the microbes pass onto their deer hosts.
Males might lose as much as 30% of their body mass during the rut, depending on the level of competition and number of competitors they face, so gaining as much mass as possible during the summer is integral to their success and their survival.
I know I’m doing my part to sustain these guys, judging from the number of perennials in my garden that get munched down to their roots every summer.