Antler Growth In Whitetail Deer
By Matt Eastman
Antlers are one of nature’s great marvels and are coveted by hunters around the world. A mature buck can grow up to 200+ inches of bone on top of it’s head in around 3 months.
In most parts of North America a mature buck will start to grow antlers around mid March. The month of July is the prime growing season for antlers. During July it’s not uncommon for a mature bucks antlers to grow as much as one inch per day. From mid March to Late August a bucks antlers are covered by a soft tissue called velvet which delivers blood to the growing bone. By the end of August the decreasing amount of daylight starts to slow down the amount of antler growth and the velvet covering the antlers starts to dry up. The drying velvet cuts the flow of blood to the antlers causing the antlers to start to harden up and shrink slightly.
Genetics Effect Antler Size
Most experts believe that genetics are the number one determining factor of antler form in whitetail deer. A deer with a symmetrical 10 point rack is going to produce offspring with symmetrical racks. Bucks with scraggly looking antlers won’t produce offspring with big antlers. On heavily managed properties, hunters are encouraged to shoot mature bucks with small or odd shaped antlers. These are often called management hunts. Management hunts are the norm on large properties. In most cases, a land owner or property manager cannot do a whole lot to control the genetics of a wild deer population.
Proper Nutrition Enhances Antler Growth
Nutrition is one of the only really effective things a land owner can do to help promote antler growth. A buck's antler growth is greatly affected by the physical condition of the buck at the start of the antler
growing season. If a buck's fat reserve is run down from a hard winter or a buck suffered an injury during the previous year the next year’s antler growth can be effected negatively.
Many land owners of both big acre plots and small acre plots are starting to add food plots for deer. Food plots not only attract deer to the area but they also provide a year round source of nutrition that
can help to maximize the potential of a whitetail bucks rack.
Minerals are another way to bolster whitetail nutrition. Most mineral compounds for deer are made of sodium or salt. Sodium helps deer digest their food better and in turn creates bigger antlers. Blocks are the traditional way to offer minerals, but more property owners are going to powder or pellets. Is it easier to get more sugar by licking a sugar cube or pouring it out of a bag? The same thing goes for minerals. It’s easier for deer to get more nutrition with powder or pellet minerals.
Age Is a Factor In Antler Growth
Age is also a big factor in determining a deer’s antler size. When a buck is young, much of the nutrition it takes in is used for growing its skeletal and muscular structure. When a mature buck has reached his full size and stature more of its nutritional intake can go towards growing its antlers. A young buck that has not fully matured in size isn’t capable of producing a large set of antlers. In most areas, 75% of 1½ year old deer have less than four points on one side. In other words, the vast majority of 1 ½ year old bucks are six pointers or smaller. A buck needs to reach an age of at least 3-4 years old before the hunter will start to see the full potential of a buck's antlers.
If you want to start to see more big bucks on your property start letting the younger deer walk and make sure your deer have good year round nutrition. It will take some patience and a little work, but the payoff can be tremendous.