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Antler Growth and Velvet

Back To "Ask The Biologist?"Antler Growth and Velvet:
Will this buck's rack grow much more?

QUESTION: Bob, I have questions regarding antler growth. I ask because of an August 13, 2013 image caught on my trail cam of a very large adult buck in upstate New York.

Antler Growth and VelvetIt seems most bucks here shed velvet around the end of the first week of September. With only about three weeks left before velvet shedding, would you expect this buck's tines and beam tips to grow another inch or so? The ends of the beam and points look dark and shiny.

Along these lines, I've found several dead bucks evidently shot by farmers with nuisance permits. They appear to have been shot around velvet shedding time, before they'd mineralized, so the antlers were extremely lightweight, and the perlation around the bases was needle-like due to not having been rubbed yet.

On one of these bucks, the ends of the points and beam tips were still bulbous. Does this indicate the beam tips were not fully developed even though most of the antlers were hardened? - Grigonis family

Antler Growth and VelvetANSWER: I'll offer what I can, though it seems like you have a pretty good handle on what's going on.

First, the timing sounds right. I see the same thing over in Maine with deer shedding velvet around the first week of September and the larger, older bucks shedding first.

As for how much more growth will occur between mid August and early September, I can only speculate. 

We know antlers are among the fastest growing tissues in the animal kingdom.  During peak growth periods they can grow as much as 1/4 inch a day. 

However, growth rates slow dramatically toward the end of summer as the mineralization process begins.

Until that occurs, the antlers are relatively light. In fact, in this month's issue of Rack magazine, editor Mike Handley writes about a 331-inch Kansas rack he had the privilege of examining. That buck succumbed to EHD in late summer. 

Handley said, "I'd expected to pick up an anvil, but it was as light as a feather, like someone had painted a volleyball to resemble a bowling ball."

That would explain the lightness of the racks you refer to, as well as the bulbous, undeveloped ends.

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