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Watch a Buck’s Antlers Grow

Brow Tines and Backstrap

Watch a Buck’s Antlers Grow

Posted 2023-07-28  by  Josh Honeycutt

This video shows the complete process, from bare pedicle to polished headgear

The whitetail antler growth process is a fascinating natural event. This controlled form of cancer is the fastest-growing animal tissue. And if you want to see deer antler growth by day, the Mississippi State University Deer Lab offers a video timeline that illustrates the process.

As with all biological things, antlers are made of various types of matter. According to Bowhunters United, hardened antlers consist of 23% calcium, 10% phosphorous, 0.5% magnesium, 0.8% sodium, and 0.3% sulfur. Other elements also factor in, including aluminum, copper, iron, manganese, potassium, and zinc. Many factors influence antler size and shape. These include age, disease, environment, genetics, hormones, injuries, nutrition, soil quality, and stress level.

The MSU Deer Lab says a growing antler tine has layers, starting with the frontal bone, pedicle bone, abscission line, cancellous bone, bone formation, mineralized cartilage, cartilage, chondroprogenitor, mesenchyme, perichondrium, and then the velvet skin. When hardened, the antler bone has two layers, including a spongy, weaker interior and a hardened cortical outer layer that’s much denser.

Antlers start by growing outward from the pedicle, which connects to the skull. Pedicles first appear in button bucks at about 4 to 5 months. Each year, the pedicle gets slightly larger, which leads to greater mass measurements. According to the University of Missouri, the average 1½-year-old buck reaches about 25% to 30% of its eventual antler potential. A 2½-year-old reaches about 60%, a 3½-year-old reaches about 80%, a 4½-year-old reaches about 90%, a 5½-year-old reaches about 98%, and a 6½-year-old reaches about 100%.

Beginning in early spring, bucks regrow their antlers. The six-month process starts after the previous antler set casts and falls. The bloody, exposed pedicle scabs over. Driven by hormone changes linked to daylight length (photoperiod), new antler bulbs appear on the pedicle and begin to grow outward, eventually forming the new rack.

By late summer (usually August), antlers begin to mineralize, harden, and turn to dead bone. In September, the velvet peels, and bucks brandish their newly polished antlers. The velvet shedding process is ramped up by rubbing and sparring, usually finishing within 24 hours.

The finished antlers are intended for fall and winter usage. These are believed to serve many purposes, including indicating age, signaling health status, displaying potential dominance, fighting other bucks, defending against predators, and more. In late winter, the antler-pedicle connection degrades, leading to antler casting. Soon, the process starts again.


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