CHARACTERISTICS OF WHITETAIL DEER ANTLERS
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“The flashing of a white tail bounding away through the brush, the sharp snort of a wary doe on a frosty morning, and the nasal grunt of a randy buck all quicken the pulse of any deer hunter, but nothing stirs their blood and captures their imagination like the sight of a set of whitetail deer antlers. Whether it’s learned or innate, we humans are enraptured with how Mother Nature forges the fastest growing tissue in the animal kingdom into wonderful works of beauty. Thick, gnarly, chocolate-brown bases curve up, then forward to support a picket of ivory tines, a magnificent masterpiece is grown. They are used to procure breeding and social status, for protection, and to impress the ladies, then cast off all in a single year. In a past issue we looked at how antlers are formed. This time we’ll take an in-depth look at the end result.
WHAT ARE DEER ANTLERS?
At the risk of diminishing their magnificence, it helps to understand more about antlers by learning what they’re made of. In simple terms, they are bone and are unlike horns that are made of keratin (modified hair follicles), which are permanent. They are an extension of the skull, albeit temporary, that start as a porous framework covered in a velvety coat before they become mineralized and literally die. They grow, die then are shed in a single season, only to be replaced with another set the following year, and while they come in a range of shapes and sizes they have a similar general morphology.
The pedicle is the point of attachment (and eventual detachment) between the antler base and the skull. Just above this is a knobby flange called the burr. The main beam is basically the foundation of the antler, from base to tip, and from which all other structures grow. The first section, from burr to the first point is the antler base. In scoring charts, it’s referred to as “H1.” The small, knobby bumps more common on the base are called perlations. The first points or “tines” are commonly referred to as the “brow tines” (G1), but are occasionally assigned more colorful terms like “eye-guards” or “tater diggers,” to name a few. Successive points or tines typically grow upward from the main beam as you move from base to tip. A typical antler could have as few as one or as many as six or more typical points growing more or less perpendicular to the main beam with both antlers forming a fairly symmetrical rack. But not with all bucks….
In general, anything deviating from this basic, symmetrical configuration is considered an atypical or abnormal point. Some individual points may split or fork, which could be a vestige of common ancestry that is more common in other deer species like mule deer. Smaller, asymmetrical points growing off the main beam, or other points are sometimes called “kickers” or “stickers.” Those growing downward from the main beam are appropriately referred to as “drop-tines.”
WHITETAIL DEER ANTLER SIZE
Just about every whitetail hunter is aware the three factors most influencing antler size are:
As the latter is by far the most important, we’ll look at that first.
ANTLERS AND AGE
Entering his first fall, a young buck will already show evidence of his future potential with a pair of tiny protuberances on the top of his skull that give the “button” or “nubbin buck” its name. In some cases, they may merely be bumps under the skin. In others they may be small, leathery patches. Though less common, early-born buck fawns or those in areas of abundant nutrition may even sport tiny, bony nubbins. Real antler growth won’t start until the deer is about a year old.
The full article can be found here.
Photo Credit: Original Author