Antler growth in whitetail is simply amazing! In fact, words really do not do the annual phenomenon justice. The speed at which bucks grow their all-important antlers is something rarely observed in the wildlife world. But as amazing as buck antler growth is, antlers do have a function. During the breeding season, or rut as it’s known by hunters, a buck’s newly-grown antlers help them fight and establish dominance among rival whitetail bucks. Of course, by the time the rut comes around a buck’s antlers are hard, polished bone with sharp points. They will remain so until mating season is over, or until their antlers are broke during a battle. And this happens way more often than you may think.
Whitetail buck fights can be heard over long distances and are characterized by the sound of the antlers clashing. Not only does this sound attractive other combative bucks, but this sound often attracts doe’s in heat, who know a suitable mate will be available once the dominant buck wins the battle. Once the need to win their right to mate has passed, usually between late December and early January, the buck’s antlers will be shed.
Not only do older whitetail bucks start growing their antlers earlier in the season, they also usually shed their antlers before younger ones. Immature or unhealthy bucks have been known to shed their antlers as late as early spring. After shedding, the re-growth, polishing and casting process then starts again in the spring. Although shed antlers can be found by hunters, most are rarely found because antlers are rich in calcium and other nutrients. As such, they are often eaten by other animals, primarily rodents, soon after they are shed.
When it comes to antler configuration, the whitetail buck’s antlers can be classified as either typical or as non-typical. Typical antlers have points growing in a symmetrical fashion and shoot straight up to the sky from the main beam. Non-typical antlers are characterized by points growing at different angles in an asymmetrical fashion. A whitetail buck’s inside antler spread typically measures between 3 and 25 inches.
Age, diet and health are determining factors of antler growth in buck deer. in the size, shape and color of the whitetail deer’s antlers. Antler size and mass will continue to increase in bucks until they are 6 to 7 years of age. Bucks 7 years and older will typically re-grow antlers with increased mass but that are shorter year after year, unless they have an exceptional diet.
Plenty of food, but more importantly plenty of food that provides the buck with the necessary nutrients is essential to achieve maximum antler growth. The buck’s diet not only determines the size of the antlers but also the mass and the number of points that will grow off the main beam. Because skeletal growth and general health take precedent over antler growth, this means that unhealthy or starving bucks will typically grow smaller antlers, and will generally not be in a position to mate come rut season. Poor health or injury may also result in the deer growing deformed, partial or asymmetrical antlers in whitetail bucks.