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Deer Antlers

PhotoWhy do bucks grow antlers?
  • Whitetail bucks’ antlers evolved as a weapon system and display mechanism associated with social hierarchy, especially in terms of reproduction.
Are Antlers like bones?
  • Antlers are the crowning glory of the male white-tailed deer. Antlers are composed of true bone. They grow from pedicels on the frontal bones. These pedicels form the buttons, which are the only antler development of most male fawns.
When do deer get their first antlers?
  • A buck’s first set of antlers grows during his yearling spring and summer. Annual antler growth begins in mid-March to April. The size of a buck’s antlers depends on his age and nutritional intake.
How are points counted or measured on racks?
  • A buck’s first set of antlers (or rack) can vary from spikes to as many as 10 points. To be counted, a point must be at least 2.54 centimeters (1 inch) long. This length is consistent with scoring standards.
What happens to the velvet on antlers and why do some antlers grow in weird shapes?
  • The growing bone—or antler—is full of blood vessels and nerves. Antlers are covered by a hairy skin called velvet. Injuries occur easily to the soft, sensitive growing bone, and accidents during this state cause many deformed antlers. Growth continues through August or September. The bone then hardens. The velvet dries up and is rubbed off or falls off.
When do bucks shed their antlers?
  • By late December through early January, the supply of testosterone decreases. A separation layer forms at the pedicel, and antlers are shed when they fall off. In March or April, the whole process starts over. Scientists believe it probably starts under the influence of increasing daylight hours and prolactin secretions. (Prolactin is a protein hormone of the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland.)

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