The Truth About Deer Antlers

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Taking a spring nature walk? Keep an eye out for antlers! 

Antlers are prized by hunters, nature enthusiasts and even some dog lovers! Antlers may seem very similar to horns, but did you know there are many differences? While both boney structures continue to grow during the animal’s life, antlers are shed and regrown each year. Deer shed their antlers in early spring, so now is the perfect time to look outside! One deer’s leftovers is another person’s treasure! 

All about antlers! 

  • Antlers start forming on the pedicle (above and slightly behind the eye) 
  • Formation is controlled by day length (photoperiod) and breeding season 
  • Growing antlers are only about 20% dry matter; the rest is a blood supply covered by a hairy membrane (velvet) 
  • Since antlers are soft while growing they can be damaged and deformation 
  • Antlers are fully formed and harden in late August/early September; the velvet dries and is discarded 
  • Hardened antlers are about 60% ash (calcium and phosphorous) and 40% protein 

 Antlers can be found in places frequented by the male deer who shed them. Just make sure to look earlier rather than later since many rodents will chew and wear them down. Most importantly, have patience and keep your eyes peeled!