What Determines Antler Color in Bucks?

No two whitetail deer are exactly the same. Deer can vary by color and sometimes behavior. In addition, even though almost all bucks have antlers, hunters know that no two sets of antlers are the same—even from the same buck! This is because most of the time antlers get larger year after year, at least up to 6 or 7 years old. But antler size and the number of points are not the only things that vary between whitetail racks. Antler color can also vary between bucks.

Though antler coloration is not always noticable between deer, there are definite differences that can be seen between various locations. In the Mid-West, for example, most bucks have very white or light-colored antlers. In the plains of South Texas, on the other hand, bucks have very dark and often chocolately colored antlers. And many hunters can see differences in bucks they’ve harvested over the years from the very same deer stand. So what determines antler color in whitetail bucks?

This variation is usually the result of the amount of oxidized blood left over from velvet shedding and the type of plant the buck uses to help shed the velvet. The chemical reaction between the blood and sap present in the tree or bush used to rub the antlers can sometimes lead to interesting color variations. In short, this explains much of the color difference between bucks from different regions of the United States, but also from deer harvested on the same ranch. If bucks use different tree or brush species for rubbing off their velvet in late summer or early fall follwing antler growth, then antlers will look different.

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