10 Facts to Know About Whitetail Deer Antlers

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Do You Already Know All of These Things?

Fact No. 1

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1 | Fact No. 1

White-tailed deer have antlers. Antlers differ from horns in that they’re cast every year and are regrown in spring and summer. Horns are never cast and continuously grow due to a core of live tissue.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Tony Campbell

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Fact No. 2

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2 | Fact No. 2

The antler is one of the fastest-growing tissues on earth known to man. It’s not consistent day-to-day growth. Instead, most growth happens in spurts. Numerous studies have been conducted on them because of this to see exactly how the antler-growing process works.

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Fact No. 3

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3 | Fact No. 3

Velvet has small hair-like fibers that allow a buck to have feeling in its headgear during the antler-growing process. This allows bucks to prevent damage during the velvet-growing phase and also provides muscle memory of where their rack is throughout the rest of the antler-holding period.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Jim Cumming

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Fact No. 4

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4 | Fact No. 4

Growing antlers takes a toll on a deer’s body. It can take as much as two to three times the nutrients to grow the rack than it does the skeletal system. That’s why you see the biggest antlers after a deer reaches 4 ½ to 5 ½ years of age. By that time, the muscular and skeletal systems are finished growing and more calcium and phosphorous can go to the antlers.

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Photo Credit: Bill Konway

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Fact No. 5

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5 | Fact No. 5

Testosterone is the biggest factor in both antler and antler velvet shedding. Rising testosterone causes the velvet to peel off in late summer and early fall. Dropping testosterone levels trigger antler shedding in late winter and early spring.

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Fact No. 6

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6 | Fact No. 6

Everything begins and finishes at the pedicle. This is the base where the antler grows from, attaches to, and falls from once it’s cast. It’s the center of all antler-related-things throughout the lifecycle of that antler.

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Photo Credit: Bill Konway

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Fact No. 7

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7 | Fact No. 7

Damage to the pedicle, the antler during the growing period, and bodily injuries can result in abnormal antlers. More times than not, odd antlers and weird racks are a result of one of those things — not genetics.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / William T. Smith

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Fact No. 8

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8 | Fact No. 8

Furthermore, it’s been proven that while culling in fenced herds can have positive effects over lengthy periods of time, it isn’t feasible or effective in wild herds. There are too many variables in play. As previously mentioned, it’s hard to tell if a deformity truly is genetic-related. Does also contribute to approximately 50 percent of the antler-genetic makeup, too. Existing genetics are so firmly engrained the deer herd that it would take many generations to sift out “inferior” genes. The list goes on and on. The best thing you can do to increase the size of local deer is provide plenty of food for the herd and manage for older-age-class bucks.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Tony Campbell

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Fact No. 9

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9 | Fact No. 9

While it is uncommon, it is possible for does to have antlers. Oftentimes, when this happens, they are typically pretty small, and they don’t shed them. Cactus bucks are also rare and are basically whitetail velvet bucks that never shed their velvet or antlers. They just keep growing. This is usually caused by a damaged or missing testicle — which prohibits testosterone from properly completing the antler-growing phases. Lastly, Doppelkopf antlers are where a buck sheds one antler and only regrows one each year, as shown above.

Photo Credit: QDMA

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Fact No. 10

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10 | Fact No. 10

Allowing bucks to reach older age classes is the best thing you can do if a trophy buck is your goal. A buck has only reached approximately 25 to 30 percent of its total score potential at 1 ½, 55 to 60 percent at 2 ½, 75 to 80 percent at 3 ½, 80 to 85 percent at 4 ½, 85 to 90 percent at 5 ½, 90 to 95 percent at 6 ½, and 95 to 100 percent at 7 ½ and 8 ½. Food availability, winter severity, drought severity and other health-related factors typically dictate whether 6 ½, 7 ½, or 8 ½ is the best antler-growing year in a buck’s life.

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Critterbiz

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White-tailed deer antlers are truly captivating. Along with sheer availability and quality of meat, they’re partially to blame for the fact that whitetails are the most-loved game animal in North America. Interestingly, unlike other species that produce cookie-cutter antlers (or horns), each whitetail has a truly unique set of antlers. No two are alike. And they’re much like a fingerprint in that regard.