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ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

Old 07-02-2007, 08:40 PM
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[align=left]Articles from different places: [/align][align=left][/align][align=left]Defintion of Antlers: [/align][align=left]
Whitetail antlers are an amazing example of nature’s wonderful and beautiful handiwork. They range from tiny sharp spikes to amazing typical and non-typical racks. Antlers develop into every size and shape. But antler size, growth and irregularities are often misunderstood by many deer hunters. A great deal of misinformation has been passed down for ages. One major mistake is commonly made by hunters who don’t know that antlers are not horns, and horns are not antlers.

Antlers are made of dead bone, and are yearly growths that begin growing from two pedicels on the buck’s head in late winter and early spring. Antlers reach full growth in late summer usually October. Antlers are normally branched (except for spikes), and maturity, good nutrition, lack of stress and good genes determine antler size and formation.

As a rule, only male deer grow antlers. But one female (doe) in several thousand whitetail does will grow antlers because of a hormone imbalance. Horns, rather than antlers, are living bone that is covered with hard layers of skin. They are typically unbranched and permanently established on the animal’s head. Wild sheep, for example, continue to grow horns throughout their lives. Horns also are found on bison, cows and goats in North America. [/align][align=left][/align][align=left]Growth:[/align]
Deer Antler growth usually begins during the month of March or April, by August or early September, antlers are fully-grown. In most cases the typical deer antlers begins growth out of the head in a backward motion, then quickly changes direction and sweeps forward.
Deer antlers are among the fastest growing tissues known to man.
Growing as much as a ½ inch per day during peak development. The development process can vary greatly depending upon the genes and nutrition of each deer. Growing antlers are covered with a living tissue called velvet. During development, the deer’s antlers are very delicate and extremely sensitive to the touch. This is also the time when most antler damage or breakage occurs.
Velvet is shed or rubbed off by the buck as he rubs saplings with his antlers. Older bucks will shed their velvet before younger bucks. A buck’s first set of antlers begins to grow when it’s about 10 months old. Spikes are more common in yearling deer than older ones because antler growth starts at a time when the young buck’s body is still growing rapidly. Antler development is tied in closely with the animal’s nutritional status. Older bucks might also carry spikes if they come from an area with poor food conditions.


A number of factors combine to determine the size, shape, and color of antlers of white-tailed deer. The following is a description of the most important factors and how each influences antler characteristics.

Factors that Determine Antler Size (listed in order of importance)

Age - age is the primary factor that determines exactly how big antlers will grow. Antler mass and length increases with age until bucks reach 6 to 7 years of age. In bucks 7 years old and older, antlers mass often increases, while overall length of the main beam and tines declining with each consecutive set of antlers.



The first set of antlers typically are grown at 1.5 years of age. However, in Mississippi up to 20-30
percent of buck fawns may develop hardened antlers (usually only hardened buttons) at about 8 months of age. This phenomenon is not usually seen by hunters because it happens after the hunting season.

In these cases, nutrition is adequate enough and birth dates are early enough to allow fawns to reach the critical body mass needed to initiate antler growth. Antler size increases annually, in sometimes dramatic fashion, until maximum antler development is reached at about 5-7 years of age. Based on averages of 23 bucks measured through 7 years of age in a Mississippi State University (MSU) study, 1 year old bucks grew the equivalent of about 26 percent of their ultimate maximum gross Boone and Crockett score.

The percentage increased each year, to about 63 percent at 2 years, 77 percent at 3 years, and 92 percent at 4 years of age. Using antler weight as a measure of antler size tells a similar story, although with different values. Antler weights were 10 percent at 1 year, 44 percent at 2 years, 71 percent at 3 years, and 80 percent at 4 years of age.

These particular animals developed maximum antler size at 5 years of age, but many do not reach full potential until 6 or 7 years. Bucks consuming less than optimal forage quality would be expected to reach their maximum antler size at an older age and would be more susceptible to annual variation in forage quality.


Nutrition:


Good nutrition is required for button-buck fawns to grow large pedicels. Often, the larger the pedicel, the larger the antlers will be at a later age. Like I said earlier, antlers can grow at the rate of a ½ inch per day, but body growth takes precedence over antler growth. Any deficiency in dietary energy, protein, calcium, phosphorus or certain vitamins during spring and summer can have strong negative effects. There are only two possible solutions to poor nutrition. One is to reduce deer numbers to more closely match the capacity of the natural habitat. The other is to improve the habitat by cutting, burning, planting or fertilizing to restore the land’s capacity to support healthy deer.

If more hunters use doe tags this fall, and spare some of the larger bucks, the state’s deer population will be reduced to more manageable numbers while some bucks will grow bigger antlers as they continue to mature.

Diet- nutritional requirements, particularly those for protein, energy, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A & D, must also be met in order for deer to achieve maximum antler growth. Adequate nutrition in the months of February and March is especially important, because deer need to replace body fat and muscle lost during winter before antler growth can reach its potential. Dietary protein and energy restrictions will decrease antler volume, beam diameter, main beam length, and total number of antler points grown. Maximum antler development can occur when dietary calcium and phosphorus concentrations are at least 0.45% and 0.30% (dry matter basis), respectively.

Health (general physical condition, body weight, injury etc.) - body growth and maintenance takes precedence over antler growth. This means that only bucks in good physical condition will reach their full potential of antler growth.

Injury or damage to the pedicle or velvet may result in the injured antler becoming deformed. An injury to the body can also influence antler growth because energy is used to grow or repair muscle or tissue before it is used to grow antler. Sometimes, a severe injury to the body may result in stunted growth or deformity of the antler opposite side of the body that sustained the injury due to a phenomenon known as bilateral or geo-physical asymmetry.


Genetics:

Genetics is an extremely important component of the deer management formula. However, genetics is just one of the factors of antler development. Age, nutrition, disease, and injury are often more important contributors to a buck’s antlers than genetics.

To understand the role that genetics plays in antler development it is first necessary to understand the contributions other factors make to a buck’s antlers. Most importantly, the animal has to have adequate nutrition. Without adequate nutrition a buck with the genetic background to become the world record whitetail buck might be less than average. An example of the importance of nutrition would be to take that buck and feed him mostly corn for one year.

It should be noted that corn is a very poor quality food for deer except during periods of high-energy drain during cold periods of the year. It is high in carbohydrates but low in protein (about 8 percent). On the this corn diet, the deer would maybe grow an 8 point rack with a 17 inch inside spread and have a Boone and Crockett score of about 115.

Now take the same deer for one year and feed him the normal 16% protein ration, the deer’s antlers would increase to maybe 21 points, a 27.5 inch inside spread and have a Boone and Crockett score of 210.


Just like people, deer are born with a genetic code that dictates what potential their characteristics have, including antler development. Some bucks are destined to become absolute monsters while most make up the majority of "average" bucks. Nature has a way of perpetuating the species and it is through this "survival of the fittest" that the strongest specimens propagate the next generations. There is very little you can do to affect the gene pool in the area you hunt. You can, however, do a little research into what regions have been producing larger numbers of big bucks and try to hunt there.



SIDE NOTE: USUALLY JULY IS THE MONTH WHERE MOST OF ANTLER GROWING OCCURS.

Antlers vs. horns


Deer grow antlers; they do not grow horns. Horns differ from antlers in that horns are composed of a continuously growing bony core which is surrounded by an outer keratinous sheath. By comparison, antlers are solid bone and they are shed and re-grown each year. Horns are similar to antlers only in that they grow from the forehead.
Antler terminology
Figure 1 illustrates the basic terminology for antlers of white-tailed deer.



[align=center][/align]
Pedicle development
The two circular areas that grow antlers from a buck's skull are known as pedicles. Antler pedicles start developing on the frontal bones of male white-tailed deer fawns during late fetal development. After birth, early stimulation from testosterone is then required for final pedicle development. When bucks reach 4-6 months of age, the antlers begin to grow from the pedicle. Overall, pedicle formation occurs through a process known as
intramembranous ossification, whereas antlers grow by endochondral ossification.
Annual antler development


Spring/Summer - Annually, deer antler growth begins nationwide between mid-March and early-April. In response to changes in
photoperiod, growth hormones from the pituitary gland trigger the release of Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF), which stimulates antler growth. During this time, the soft growing antler is covered with hairy skin, called "velvet". When antlers are in the velvet stage they are full of thousands of blood vessels, cartilage and nervous tissue. Growth of antlers is very rapid, and some deer species are capable of growing nearly 1 inch of antler per day.

Antlers continue to grow through August or September. As day length decreases in autumn, the pituitary gland indirectly increases the secretion of testosterone and testicular volume increases Figure 2.

[align=center][/align][align=center][/align]Fall/Winter - In response to rising testosterone levels and testicular volume, antlers harden through calcification. In this process, soft tissue is converted directly to bone by the deposition of minerals (mineralization) within the matrix of cartilage and blood vessels in the developing antlers. The velvet subsequently dries up and sloughs off. Occasionally, bucks rub their antlers against brush to aid in velvet removal.

During the rut, antlers remain as hard, polished bone with sharp tines. Hard antlers enable bucks to fight, posture for dominance among rival males, and display for does. Between late December and early January, testosterone levels decrease and cause the union between the antlers and pedicles to weaken and the antlers then are shed or broken off. Once the antlers are shed, skin grows over the wound left by the cast antler. The entire process starts over again in the spring.

How deer age affects antler characteristics


Buck fawns grow two small bump-like antlers, or "buttons", their first year and will grow their first true set of antlers during the following spring and summer. The second rack will be bigger than the first, and with sufficient nutrition, each set of antlers will grow even larger until the buck passes his prime (usually 5-7 years old). Pedicle diameter also increases with age, with new bone grown annually in concentric layers. Older bucks typically cast their antlers before young bucks, and immature or unhealthy bucks may not shed their antlers until early spring (March-April).
Mineral requirements for antler growth

Mineral requirements for antler growth exceed those of normal skeletal growth and maintenance (studies have shown that deer are constantly undergoing skeleton rebuilding). In some species, antler requirements for minerals may be 3 times as high as that required to maintain the skeleton. Mineral demand for antler growth is satisfied from both the diet and from bone resorption.

Where do deer get the calcium and phosphorus needed for growing antlers?
Diet provides the greatest proportion of calcium and phosphorus for antler growth and mineralization. However, antler growth will never exceed genetic potential, even if a deer consumes these elements above optimum levels. During times of peak antler growth, antler demand for minerals forces the thyroid gland to release calcitonin; this hormone allows the deer to "steal" minerals from its internal bone structure. This process is known as "physiological" or "temporary" osteoporosis. Bones such as the ribs and shoulder blades contribute the most to this temporary mineral deficiency, and they may lose as much as 40% of their calcium content while antlers are hardening. However, by September, deer can fully replace the minerals borrowed from their skeleton.
Antler composition and physiology

Composition of growing (soft) antlers in velvet (Spring/Summer):
Velvet antlers are High in water and Low in dry matter:
20% dry matter & minerals
80% crude protein
20% ash (22% calcium and 11% phosphorus)
80% organic material (water, etc.)

Composition of hard & polished antlers (Fall/Winter):
Hard antlers are Low in water and High in dry matter:
60% dry matter & minerals
40-45% crude protein
54-60% ash (25-40% calcium and 19% phosphorus)
40% organic material (water, etc.)

What is protein?
Protein is a general term that describes a large group of compounds that have a variety of different functions. The one thing that all proteins have in common is they are composed of amino acids. Amino acids are termed either non-essential or essential. Non-essential amino acids are produced in the body. Essential amino acids are derived directly from food deer eat. The majority of amino acids are essential, and therefore, must come from food.

Proteins are required in nearly every factor of life because they are important components of enzymes, hormones, antibodies, blood clotting factors, and cell walls. In order for these life components to function properly, deer require a regular supply of dietary protein.

Deer protein requirements
Protein requirements of deer vary by age, sex, physiological condition and season (Fig. 1). Pound for pound, fawns require more protein than adults because fawns are growing muscle tissue continuously throughout their first year of life. Because of their larger body size and faster growth, male fawns require a higher protein intake than female fawns. Muscle replacement and maintenance by adults requires protein, but proportionately less than that required by fawns. The protein requirement of yearlings slightly exceed that of adults. During late pregnancy and lactation, does require proportionately more protein than bucks.


[align=center] [/align]Seasonal protein availability
The time of year a forage becomes nutritious and
palatable determines how important it will be to deer, and how much protein it will provide. For example:
Forages that are most nutritious and palatable in the SPRING are important for:

[ul][*]helping all deer recover from winter stress [*]providing pregnant does with nutrition needed to support developing fetuses through the third trimester and to begin producing milk [*]providing bucks with nutrients needed to begin growing antlers [/ul]
Forages that are most nutritious and palatable in the SUMMER are important for:
[ul][*]providing does with nutrients needed for producing milk [*]providing nutrients needed by growing fawns [*]supporting further antler development in bucks [/ul]
Forages that are most nutritious and palatable in the FALL/WINTER are important for:
[ul][*]providing nutrition for weaned fawns that are still growing [*]providing energy deer need to prepare for winter [*]replacing energy lost during the rut [/ul]
Because protein requirements must be met concurrently with energy requirements, protein consumption must increase as energy demands increase. Most food plot forages offer food sources high in protein but low in energy. Acorns and many commercial grains, such as corn or wheat, have relatively low levels of protein, but high levels of energy (fat). Woody browse items are typically low in both protein and energy content (Fig. 2). In general, plant protein is highest in early growth stages. For example, protein in young grasses, forbs and browses can be as much as 15-25% higher than the same plants at maturity.

[align=center][/align]
How much protein is enough?
Deer nutritionists generally agree that a diet containing 16-20% crude protein is more than adequate to support deer protein requirements. Human nature leads us to believe that more is better than less. However, this is not the case when it comes to protein consumption by deer. After deer meet their minimal protein requirements any additional protein consumed does not lead to larger antlers or bigger bodies. It can, however, equate to higher costs to the hunter and deer manager who is feeding or improving habitat for deer. Thus, to reduce costs and efficiently meet the requirements of all age classes of deer it is best to purchase and provide forage with a minimum of 16% crude protein. Investing in forage that provides much greater than 20% protein will not vastly improve the herds' health and should probably be considered a waste of money.

Antler Injuries
Antlers can sustain injuries to the pedicle (base), main beam or tines (points). Pedicle injuries are often the result of a blow to the head and will affect the entire antler. Pedicle injuries cause the base and most or all of the antler to look deformed, while the opposite antler grows normally and shows no sign of an injury. Severe pedicle injuries may even stop antler growth completely. Main beam injuries occur during the growing season (obviously) and the degree of abnormality is determined by timing and location of the injury. Antlers with normal bases but deformed growth patterns/shapes and tines are caused by injuries during early growth. Injuries occurring later in growth affect less of the antler's "normal" shape unless the injury is low on the main beam. Injuries to main beams and tines are expressed only during the current year. The buck's next set of antlers typically don't show signs of the injury.

Body Injuries
Body injuries caused by disease, vehicles, bullets, arrows, snakebite, and other unfortunate events can cause abnormal antler growth. Injuries to a front limb (foot, leg, shoulder) may affect the antler on the injured side, opposite side or both sides, but the antler on the injured side is typically most affected. Hind limb injuries usually affect the opposite antler. Body injuries can affect antler growth on both sides and may cause the antlers to stop growing entirely. Depending on location and severity of the injury, the abnormality may occur on just the current set of antlers or it may be carried throughout life. For example, a buck that sustains minor injuries to his right rear leg from a vehicle collision may have an abnormal left antler for one season. Another buck that loses his right rear foot to a bullet may have an abnormal left antler for the rest of his life.

Genetics & Age
Genetics and animal age can also be responsible for abnormalities. We have all seen pictures of bucks with palmate antlers and points going in every direction. Within the past year, pictures of Goliath (a captive buck from PA) have been distributed via e-mail to millions of computers around the world. His abnormal antlers are caused by genetics and age, not by an injury. A buck's age plays a large role in the expression of non injury deformities. Bucks that are not nutritionally limited (and bucks from over populated herds often are) should increase the size of their antlers yearly until they reach maturity at 5-7 years of age. This is why drop tines and sticker points are much more common on older bucks.
Many abnormalities we see in the field are temporary in nature. An abnormal antler(s) should not be an excuse to harvest a young buck, particularly if the abnormality is injury related. If given the chance to grow another set of antlers, most bucks revert to their pre-injured form and grow a larger set in response to their advanced age. I know of one 3 ½ year old buck that injured his antlers early in growth and ended with 6 points on 2 deformed antlers. He scored far less than 100 Boone & Crockett points (probably closer to 50 B&C). The next year he was a symmetrical 10 point with a 21 inch inside spread and scored 145 B&C. It's amazing the difference a year can make.


Stages of Antler Development

Have you ever wondered about the stages of antler growth? How long does it take for a buck to form hardened antlers? The following photos illustrate antler growth for 1 buck from 26 March 1999 through 15 September 1999. While this particular buck is in the Kerr Wildlife Management Area Deer Pen Research Facility, its antler development is representative of whitetails throughout the Texas Hill Country.








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Old 07-02-2007, 10:25 PM
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Default RE: Factors that determine deer antler characteristics ...

Nice article. I agree...
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Old 07-03-2007, 06:47 AM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

Nice article...I disagree.

I have always been lead to believe that the three major factors that determine antler size is:
Age, Nutrition and Genetics.

The above emphasis Age, Diet and Health.

I read very little about Genetics in this article.



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Old 07-03-2007, 09:22 AM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

ORIGINAL: Jimmy S

Nice article...I disagree.

I have always been lead to believe that the three major factors that determine antler size is:
Age, Nutrition and Genetics.

The above emphasis Age, Diet and Health.

I read very little about Genetics in this article.


It is Age, Nutrition, and Gentics... the article focuses on age, (diet and nutrition are pretty much the same), and health.Genetics are really hard thing to control and you can control toanmuch greater extent the age, nutrition, and the overall health of your deer than thegenetics of your deer.
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Old 07-03-2007, 09:42 AM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

ORIGINAL: TexasOaks

ORIGINAL: Jimmy S

Nice article...I disagree.

I have always been lead to believe that the three major factors that determine antler size is:
Age, Nutrition and Genetics.

The above emphasis Age, Diet and Health.

I read very little about Genetics in this article.


It is Age, Nutrition, and Gentics... the article focuses on age, (diet and nutrition are pretty much the same), and health.Genetics are really hard thing to control and you can control toanmuch greater extent the age, nutrition, and the overall health of your deer than thegenetics of your deer.
This article does not mention what can be controlled, you did.

This info on antlers states:
Factors that Determine Antler Size (listed in order of importance)

Age - age is the primary factor that determines exactly how big antlers will grow. Antler mass and length increases with age until bucks reach 6 to 7 years of age. In bucks 7 years old and older, antlers mass often increases, while overall length of the main beam and tines declining with each consecutive set of antlers.

Diet - nutritional requirements, particularly those for protein, energy, calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A & D, must also be met in order for deer to achieve maximum antler growth. Adequate nutrition in the months of February and March is especially important, because deer need to replace body fat and muscle lost during winter before antler growth can reach its potential. Dietary protein and energy restrictions will decrease antler volume, beam diameter, main beam length, and total number of antler points grown. Maximum antler development can occur when dietary calcium and phosphorus concentrations are at least 0.45% and 0.30% (dry matter basis), respectively.

Health (general physical condition, body weight, injury etc.) - body growth and maintenance takes precedence over antler growth. This means that only bucks in good physical condition will reach their full potential of antler growth.

Injury or damage to the pedicle or velvet may result in the injured antler becoming deformed. An injury to the body can also influence antler growth because energy is used to grow or repair muscle or tissue before it is used to grow antler. Sometimes, a severe injury to the body may result in stunted growth or deformity of the antler opposite side of the body that sustained the injury due to a phenomenon known as bilateral or geo-physical asymmetry.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Genetics is vital to antler growth. If I want to shoot a record book deer, I'm gonna look for areas that hold these kind of deer.

Ihave a better chance of shooting a P&Y or B&C buck in Iowa than is Rhode Island. Why is that?

I still believe this information on antler growth failed to mention, in greater detail, how crucial genetics is in overall antler development.

Just my .02 and TO...Thanks for sharing!
BTW..Where in Texas?
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Old 07-03-2007, 09:57 AM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

I bet if you take that Rhode Island buck and put it in Iowa for 4 years it WOULD be a P&Y or B&C...
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Old 07-03-2007, 11:14 AM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

good read
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Old 07-03-2007, 11:38 AM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

DO YOU WANT MY HEAD TO EXPLODE........................................... ....
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Old 07-03-2007, 12:05 PM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

ORIGINAL: bigaggie77

I bet if you take that Rhode Island buck and put it in Iowa for 4 years it WOULD be a P&Y or B&C...
If the RI buck had bad genetics, I'll bet after 4 years, he would NOT be P&Y or B&C.
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Old 07-03-2007, 12:32 PM
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Default RE: ALL ABOUT DEER ANTLERS...

I made sure to throw in genetics for you Jimmy... even though you can't do a whole lot to really have better genetics (besides pin your deer)... it needs to said in antler development.
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